You’ve seen the Instagram or Facebook memes that post what you expected something to turn out to be like (for instance, a really awesome cake you wanted to make for your kids’ birthday) versus what it actually came out to be like. Here are a few of my favorite examples:
When you first think about coming to therapy versus what therapy actually looks like can seem like it needs its own meme. As a therapist, I’ve been in therapy for years now (it’s so much different from the other side of the couch!) and even though I know what it will be like, it was nothing like I expected!
Expectation: I’m going to go in and lay on a couch while talking about my childhood and feelings.
Reality: I sit in a really cool chair or upright on a couch. I get to decide what I talk about and how much information I share. It turns out, I don’t even know what emotions I’m actually feeling, so I get to explore that, too.
Expectation: The therapist is going to tell me the exact answer to my problems and give me advice on what to do...and it’s going to make my life so much better!
Reality: The therapist asks you questions that make you decide what your next step is. My therapist actually didn’t give me any advice on what to do but gave me tools that helped me decide what my next course of action was.
Expectation: I’m going to leave therapy feeling good.
Reality: Wow, that session was really hard. I didn’t even think I was still hurt by that anymore.
Expectation: I’m going to leave therapy feeling awful.
Reality: I actually feel a lot better after talking about that situation and finding other perspectives. Maybe she really didn’t mean it that way at all.
Expectation: My therapist is going to be old and not understand me.
Reality: Finding a therapist is like trying on shoes- you have to find the right fit! I got to read a bunch of profiles and see what person I might think would be best for me. And, after the first session, I didn’t think it would be helpful, I got to go a different route!
Doing anything we haven’t done before is going to be scary the first few times. It’s completely normal to feel nervous. Did you identify with any of the expectations above? Do you have other expectations? Once you start, you will find yourself on a unique journey. Going through therapy doesn’t have to look a certain way. Growth is not linear; it’s not easy. But whether you are dealing with a past experience you are struggling to get through, wanting to be the best version of yourself, struggling with life transitions, or just wanting to develop some tools to deal with life, it’s a completely unique and life-changing experience.
Robin Kluttz, LSCSW, LCSW, CPT