Wondering how to start your therapy journey? You’ve come to the right place.
Talk therapy, or psychotherapy, is a type of mental health treatment that involves identifying and changing negative emotions, thought patterns and behaviors.
Therapy has countless benefits, from helping you to discover more about yourself to giving you a powerful mental tool kit you can use to deal with stress, gain control over your method of thinking, make better decisions and enjoy a higher quality of life.
Therapy is a process, and it’s often helpful to think of your time working with a therapist as your very own therapy journey.
Like any other journey, it might start with small steps that ultimately lead you to the destination you’d like to reach.
We’ll explain what therapy is and why it can be so helpful, as well as how thinking of therapy as a journey can be such an empowering, effective way to stay motivated and focused as you work on improving your mental well-being.
We’ll also discuss how you can get started on your therapy journey and share a few simple yet effective tips you can use to make the most of working with your therapist.
A therapy journey is precisely what it sounds like: the mental and physical journey you’ll go on as an individual when you take part in therapy.
“Therapy journey” isn’t a phase you’ll see in mental health textbooks. It’s not a clinical term, and you generally won’t hear your mental health provider describe you as being on “stage one” or “stage two” of your journey toward better mental health.
Instead, the idea of a therapeutic journey is more about understanding that therapy is a process that ultimately guides you toward a place you’d like to be.
This process occurs gradually, step by step. Just like a real journey, the landscape is varied, so some steps are easier to take than others.
Some parts of your therapy journey might feel like a steep climb, while others may feel more like a relaxing walk in a familiar environment.
Thinking of therapy as a journey can make the process of seeking help feel less intimidating. It’s a way of understanding that there’s a real, documented route to where you want to go and that while your path might involve twists and turns, it’ll eventually lead you to a better place.
It’s also a way of understanding that other people have made their own journeys successfully — something you can also do.
Taking the first step on your therapy journey isn’t as hard as it might seem. In fact, once you’ve got it out of the way, taking the next steps is often a natural, intuitive process you’ll be able to follow on your own.
Here’s what to do.
The first step in beginning your therapy journey is finding a mental health provider. If you live in a large or medium-sized city, you may be able to find a local therapist in private practice with a quick Google search or by asking your primary care provider for a referral.
When searching for a therapist, consider your unique needs. Some therapists specialize in certain forms of treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or couples therapy.
Our guide to finding a therapist shares techniques you can use to find a qualified, capable therapy provider in your area.
Alternatively, you may want to consider participating in therapy online. We offer online therapy as part of our range of mental health services, allowing you to connect with a provider without worrying about traveling to and from your appointments.
The quality of your relationship with your therapist is critical to making progress on your therapy journey. In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) states that relationship factors are just as important for achieving success in therapy as choosing the right treatment method.
These relationship factors include being able to agree on your goals for therapy, listening and taking into consideration your feedback as a patient, and being able to resolve issues that occur throughout your experience in therapy.
If you don’t feel comfortable with your therapist, developing a strong therapeutic relationship can be difficult.
As such, it’s important to consider changing to a new therapist if you begin to feel uncomfortable during your therapy sessions — or if you feel concerned that your current provider may just not be the right person to help you make meaningful progress on your journey.
A key part of reaching success in therapy is establishing realistic goals you can work toward with your therapy provider.
Everyone’s goals in therapy are different. For example, you may want to reduce the severity of your mental illness symptoms, successfully overcome a difficult life transition, learn techniques for dealing with current life stressors or simply have a more meaningful life.
Establishing these goals with your therapist early in the process can help you to work toward a clear target and keep track of your progress.
Not sure what you want to accomplish from therapy? Our guide to setting therapy goals explains how you can identify your mental health objectives and set clear objectives for the process.
Once you start your therapy journey, there are several things you can do to get better results from the therapeutic process. Try the following techniques to stay focused and make the most of therapy for your mental health and quality of life.
Therapy is rarely an overnight process. In fact, it often takes weeks or months before you notice improvements in the way you think, feel and behave.
According to the American Psychological Association, research suggests it generally takes 15 to 20 therapy sessions for 50 percent of people to experience improvements in symptoms of certain mental health conditions.
Research also shows a positive relationship between the total amount of time a person spends in therapy and the significance of their change or recovery.
In other words, therapy is a gradual process, not an immediate on-off switch for stress, anxiety or other mental health issues.
As such, it’s important to focus on making small but meaningful steps on your journey over the long term, not recovering immediately.
You’ll embark on your therapy journey with your therapist at your side, and it’s crucial to remain open and honest with them as you try to make progress.
Sometimes, opening up about certain difficulties you’ve faced or emotions you’ve felt can feel challenging. But remember, your therapist is there to help you, and they can best use their skills when you’re as transparent as possible with them.
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s therapy journey is unique, meaning you’ll face plenty of challenges and obstacles that may not affect other people.
When assessing your personal progress from therapy, try to avoid comparing yourself to others. Instead, look back to where you started, and see how far you’ve traveled on your own journey.
When used effectively, therapy can make overcoming mental health issues, dealing with challenging situations and navigating the emotional maze of life an easier process.
However, solving your problems is rarely as easy as participating in one or two sessions with a therapist. Instead, it’s a journey — often a long one — that, like any other journey, involves many ups, downs, twists and turns.
If you think you could benefit from participating in therapy but haven’t started your journey, you can take your first step by contacting a therapist locally, asking your primary care provider for a mental health referral or using online therapy to connect with a provider from home.
If you’re concerned you may have a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety, you can also take part in an online mental health consultation to access treatment.
Therapy works, but it’s a commitment. With the right approach, you can make real progress on your therapy journey and work toward a more emotionally fulfilling, happier life.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.
Start your mental wellness journey today.