I know, first hand, how terrifying a prospect it can be going to therapy or counselling. Not knowing who your therapist is going to be, whether you’re going to like them, what the environment is going to be like, whether it’s going to help at all or just be a waste of money. There’s a multitude of what ifs, so it’s no surprise that so many of us are nervous about therapy.
Anxiety can cause the ‘what if’s’ in this world to dominate your every thought sometimes. Even if you no longer suffer from an anxiety disorder, like me, the very nature of those who are anxiety is bound to lean heavily into the what ifs of every situation and make you feel very mentally fragile.
I’ve had a fair bit of experience with therapy and counselling in my life, for a pretty serious (or debilitating to put it bluntly) anxiety disorder. Thankfully, I’m now more or less anxiety free (with the added help of Citalopram medication) but I know that the therapy I had and the different things I learned from the experiences definitely helped me move through my mental illness.
So, a little back story on my experience with therapy (and YES I was extremely nervous about therapy):
I started therapy back in 2012 (ish) when I first went to the doctor about my anxiety disorder. They didn’t initially offer me medication but instead opted for the CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) route. My anxiety disorder was completely new to me at this point, I had no idea what was happening to me. So I more or less went along with anything the GP said.
I had one-on-one CBT and long story short, it didn’t do much to help. The only REAL way it helped was forcing me to get out of the house once a week to actually attend my appointments. At that point in time, I could barely leave my room, let alone the house.
So I had 6 sessions which, if you have any experience with it will know, is nowhere NEAR enough to even tap close into the root of the problems.
After that obviously didn’t do anything to help, my Mum got in touch with a private counsellor. She was desperate at this point – we all were. I was a shell of a person, my whole day, life and being was CONSUMED with anxiety and I wasn’t functioning as a human being, I really wasn’t.
So I went off to this random therapist that my Mum found for me, who specialized more in talking therapy than the strict regimented textbook style CBT I had had before. And lo and behold, it was a WONDERFUL experience.
I continued to see this woman for a good few years and was slowly getting better and better, getting more and more confidence and gaining more coping techniques for my anxiety. I still believe to this day that that woman saved my life.
One FINAL quick experience with therapy was in 2018 when I was sent back, not for the anxiety I experienced before but for health anxiety (aka Hypochondria). I opted for group CBT this time but like before, the actual therapy aspect didn’t do much to help. However, I did meet one of my now best friends on that course.
So that’s a brief overview of my experience with therapy and I’ve certainly had good and bad ones. But one factor in all of them was that I was nervous about therapy. Even my last course of it, despite more or less knowing what to expect.
It’s completely normal to be nervous about therapy, for a bunch of reasons. So today I’m going to share a few important things to remember if you’re nervous about therapy along with a few tips thrown in there as well!
Tell them that you’re nervous
They deal with anxiety and mental illness every single day of their working lives; they know that many people who walk through their door is going to be anxious as crap. So tell them. It won’t be anything new to them and they will be able to take the correct steps to then ensure your anxiety is kept at bay.
And tell them exactly how you’re feeling at that moment in time
I told my therapist in my first session that I felt very ill and rough and she was very accommodating to that. Not just mentally but emotionally and physically too, if you’re not feeling 100%, do tell them.
Take a bottle of water with you
Water is my saving grace sometimes. I find water very relaxing and often, when I’m anxious, I’ll take sips of a bottle of water which I always keep in my bag. Ask if they mind if you can drink it throughout the session; chances are they will be fine with it and if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and have a drink. Keep yourself hydrated.
Open a door or window if you’re feeling trapped, hot or claustrophobic
I get super hot when I’m anxious. And I find it incredibly difficult to cool don. Oh and did I mention my therapist always had her heating on like, full?! I always asked if she would mind opening a window to get some air in the room and it always made a huge difference. If you can, and feel like the extra air or space will keep you calmer, then ask.
Take it slow and go at your own pace:
It’s so easy to ramble and ramble through what’s bothering you at therapy sessions because you just want to get it all out, not miss anything out and basically get it over and done with but it’s so important to take things at your own speed.
They can’t force you to say anything and they definitely can’t force you to say anything you don’t want to say. So if you need a minute to sit, think and reflect, then do. They will understand and will accommodate to your needs. And if they don’t, they’re not a very good therapist.
Remember that you’re there for your own benefit:
You’re not there to punish yourself – you’re there to help yourself get better, understand yourself more and be open to honest and professional advice so you can constantly improve your own mental health. If you can try and banish the idea that counselling is intimidating, scary and negative then it’ll help so much in the long run!
You don’t have to say anything that you don’t want to say:
I already touched on this but it’s such an important point that I wanted to include it again. Not only is it important to go at your own pace, it’s important to remember that you don’t HAVE to tell them everything and you CERTAINLY don’t have to tell them everything at that first session.
It might take a little while to learn to trust your therapist. You might get lucky and gel with one instantly and if you do, that’s absolutely wonderful. But if you want to keep your cards to your chest for a little while to ensure you trust them fully, then do that.
They’re qualified to help you:
It can be scary, sitting down in front of a complete stranger, about to bare your soul to them. But the quicker you remember that they are JUST another person, one that’s qualified to help with your very problem, the better. Just like an optician is qualified to help with your eye health.
So is it normal to get anxious before therapy? Yes. As much as you might not want to, therapy might be the answer to your problems, so be sure to check out the NHS Mental Health Services if you’re struggling and please reach out if you need to.
If you have any tips or tricks on how to stay calmer if you’re nervous about therapy , I’d love to hear them. If you’ve had therapy and feel comfortable doing so, I’d love to hear about your first experience. Was it good or bad? Let me know!
Want some more mental health content? Check out these posts:
- 8 Things To Avoid If You’re Feeling Low or Depressed
- 5 Mental Health Tips For Navigating a Job Search
- 8 Things To Do When You Get Bad News
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