Experts answer: What to expect from your first therapy session

As conversations grow around mental health during the pandemic they have definitely helped remove some of the stigma associated with talking about it and seeking help, the work is far from over. Many people are still hesitant to seek professional help when undergoing mental and emotional distress. However, it is important to do so in order to have a holistically healthy and enriching life, and therapy is essential for that.

Who should seek therapy?

“Therapy is an intensive process of reflection and introspection to bring about the changes necessary for personal growth and the acquisition of healthy coping skills for a better adjustment in life,” said Mimansa Singh Tanwar, clinical psychologist and director of the Health Program. Fortis School Mental Health, Fortis Healthcare Ltd. He added that “therapy is not only for clinical disorders, but also when you recognize that you are struggling with life situations that are impacting your emotions, thoughts and actions.”

Dr. Madhusudan Singh Solanki clarified that ttherapy is a broad term that includes various forms of “talking therapies” such as short-term supportive counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, behavioral therapy, client-centered therapy to long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy, to name a few. “Depending on the participants, it can be categorized as individual, couples, family, or group therapy. When it comes to recommending therapy, there is no one-size-fits-all formula; it depends on the overall profile of the client, including clinical diagnosis, types of intrinsic or extrinsic stressors, psychological mindset, and readiness for treatment or therapy,” he said.

How to overcome the stigma?

Dr. Solanki said there is still a lot associated stigma not only with seeking therapy, but also with the general domain of mental health, as people often fail to recognize mental health problems as clinical problems that require treatment. He said, “People need to understand that mental health problems are real problems, just like physical health problems, and they can be treated. There is nothing wrong with talking about your problems with a professional, as it is the least one can do to start, without fear of judgment or invasive treatment”.

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Tanwar also noted that while talking and sharing your feelings with friends and family is important, it’s not the same as therapy. She emphasized that “therapy is an empathetic and nonjudgmental space where the therapist is a professional trained in evidence-based, scientific treatment modalities.”

What to expect from the first session?

“The first session is about getting to know your therapist, getting comfortable with your therapist, talking about your issues, including the most pressing issues that made you see a therapist,” explained Dr. Solanki. He added that if he is seeing a psychiatrist rather than a counselor or therapist, the first session is more often than not a detailed medical history that includes psychological problemsmedical history, family and past histories, and a mental status examination, and based on all of that, arrive at a probable framework of a functional clinical diagnosis, a treatment plan, decide whether one needs medication or therapy or a combination of both .

Tanwar agreed, saying, “You may have a number of questions and doubts about the process and how it is going to help. It is essential that you voice your concerns and be aware of whether or not they are being addressed.”

Dr. Solanki also suggested “keeping your expectations reasonable and realistic” since “therapy is never a one-session thing, and usually the benefits of therapy begin to become apparent after the client and therapist have worked closely together for several sessions, investing time and effort in the therapeutic process. ”

If you feel nervous before your first session…

Tanwar said it’s normal to feel this way, noting that “wWhat is comforting to know is that the process is completely confidential and a good therapist would never judge you for what you share during your sessions. Empathetic and non-judgmental listening on the part of the therapist is what makes a therapy session healing and comforting for the client. That is why most clients feel a sense of relief after their first session by venting their feelings, thoughts and emotions in a supportive environment.”

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Dr. Solanki added that while you may not be fully prepared, a willingness to seek help and the process involved are essential to a successful endeavor.

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