If you have never been to therapy before, you’re probably wondering about what that first meeting with your therapist will be like…It’s virtually impossible in advance to describe precisely what to expect, as each client-therapist relationship is unique. However, it’s probably safe to say that your experience in therapy will hinge in great part on four critical factors. In reverse order of importance, these are:

1. The theoretical orientation of your therapist (psychodynamic, cognitive, behavioral, etc.)
2. The personal style of the therapist you choose
3. Your attitude about your therapy
4. Your openness with your therapist

A therapist’s theoretical orientation determines how that therapist will approach the issue(s) or problem(s) that you want to work on. For example, a psychodynamically oriented therapist will focus on the past experiences you’ve had; a cognitive therapist on your patterns of thinking; a postmodern therapist on societal influences; etc. Many therapists utilize an eclectic approach, which tailors the orientation to the client’s unique circumstances, history and personality. The orientation of the therapist will tend to dictate the initial kinds of questions and areas of discussion, although as therapy progresses you, as the client, will primarily be setting the agenda.

Your therapist’s personal style will be another key component of your therapy experience. Some therapists (for example, psychoanalytically-oriented therapists) work in a way that encourages the client to do most of the talking, with the therapist only rarely commenting, usually to elicit further client comment on a subject.

On the other end of the spectrum, some therapists are very directive, advising clients as to precisely what they need to do to overcome problems (behavioral therapists tend to fall in this category). But any good therapist should allow plenty of room for client feedback.Top

Studies suggest, perhaps surprisingly, that it is not the orientation, style, or even years of experience that a therapist has, but rather the attitude of the client that correlates most closely with successful therapy. Clients who are committed to achieving results are far more likely to benefit from therapy than clients who take a “prove that this will benefit me” stance. While you may have legitimate reservations about the likely benefits of therapy, be sure and discuss those reservations with your therapist early on, and at any later point in your therapy if such feelings should resurface.

This leads to the fourth factor contributing to a successful therapy experience: Your openness. The process of therapy requires you to share very personal information with your therapist, information that you may find embarrassing, or even shameful. Only by leveling with your therapist can you get the full benefit of her/his more objective perspective, and expertise. You’ll discover that the kind of experienced, well-trained, state-licensed therapists like at GTS are focused on working with you to help overcome your problems, not on judging you for your thoughts, feelings, or actions. Furthermore, the very strict rules of confidentiality governing conversations between you and your therapist (which you should ask about in your initial conversation) are designed in great part to help you feel more comfortable in sharing fully and openly.

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