What to Expect in Therapy

One of the most common experiences that occurs when people are considering beginning therapy for the first time is a sense of apprehension or feeling nervous about what it’s really like.

Therapy is about building an exploratory relationship with your therapist, and establishing the experience as a place where you can safely heal, learn, and grow.

Therapy becomes that experience you look forward to that facilitates the changes you want to make in your life.

But what does it look like?

Initially, therapy is just like any other doctor appointment. There are forms to fill out, and basic questions to answer, so that your therapist can establish a file for you. These forms, and information about privacy and protections, are similar to what you see at any doctor’s office. The Center for Personal Development has these forms available online for your convenience, and they can be printed and filled out prior to your first appointment. (Click here)

Once this paperwork is taken care of, you will meet your therapist. This first meeting is where most people feel the highest levels of nervousness or anxiety. Our therapists have met with hundreds of people during their careers and are ready to walk you through the process in a clear and understandable fashion.

Once you’ve started, you will begin the process of “getting to know” each other. Your therapist will attend to you by asking questions about yourself, about your current situation, and about your history. All these questions are important, as they give your therapist context in which to begin understanding you as a person. Your therapist will be starting to gain insight into what it has been like to be you, and will often have initial insights about the challenges you face.

You may also have questions for your therapist, such as what can someone expect while working with them, what is their experience in the field, or others. This is a natural component of the process, and research shows that finding a “good fit” is THE most important component of a successful course in therapy. You should start to get a sense that the therapist is someone with whom you’d like to work.

If a therapist feels that you would best be served by someone with a different specialty, or by a different type of therapy (group, couples) they will also let you know during this first meeting.

Most often, however, by the end of this first information gathering session, your therapist will have a good estimate about how you might plan on working together, and will talk to you about setting goals for the experience. If you and your therapist have concluded that the “good fit” is there, you will schedule a subsequent appointment.

In following sessions, there will almost always continue to be questions that your therapist will have about your past and present, and this will continue to help him or her understand you as fully as possible. At the Center for Personal Development, our therapists will not simply ask “How did you feel about that?” or sit in uncomfortable silence. Our therapists engage you as real people who are highly trained and ready to actively participate in your growth process.

Based upon your individual needs, your therapy may be considered a short term requirement (6 to 10 sessions) or an open ended therapy requirement. By speaking with a licensed Chicago therapist at the Center For Personal Development, we can help determine if your needs are short term or long term.

Short Term Therapy

Sometimes therapy focuses on a specific problem, addressing it over six to ten sessions, and then ends. This is called Short Term Therapy, or Time Limited Therapy. Research does support that about half of the people who come to therapy can address one problem effectively after six to ten sessions.

Open Ended Therapy

At other times, therapy focuses upon a number of problems, and looks to improve a client's quality of living in many areas. This kind of therapy takes time, and is often called Open Ended Therapy. Overall, therapy is a working relationship between you and the therapist. You both have to agree to work together, and if you feel therapy isn't working, you can say so, discuss options with the therapist, and end therapy if you feel it is the right choice for you.

To learn more about our services, please contact us.

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Therapy Misconceptions
  • My therapist will only want to talk about the past. Your past is your story, but it is not your present or future. Therapists do spend time understanding how you got to where you are today, but generally speaking, all therapists are looking to help you feel better now and in the future.
  • Therapy is just venting. Therapy is actually a very active process, where you will be challenged to become aware and responsible for your life. There is plenty of room in the experience to talk about the difficulties you face, but it is not just venting.
  • You have to be really “out of your mind” to qualify for therapy. Therapy is for anyone who wants to make time for learning about themselves and making choices for a better tomorrow. Often, a therapist acts like a consultant on an individual level. No matter what’s going on in your life, making room to focus on yourself and your goals can be an experience you come to value and trust.
  • I should figure this out on my own. Therapy is not a threat to our independence. A therapist is a guide who helps reflect the best in you, and gives you time and space to come to your own conclusions. Often times, if we could gain the perspective that therapy offers, we would have done it already. There is no shame in making a commitment to be your best self.