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Nervous About Starting Therapy? Read This...

Updated: Mar 25

Written by Ashley Gray, LCSW, MFTC

"A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for" - John A. Shedd

I first heard this quote when I was about to leave my first job in mental health. For the previous four years, I had been working with a team that had really felt like family to me. Coincidentally, a few others were leaving around that same time for unrelated reasons. As we were about to go our separate ways we were reflecting, together, on the different seasons in life and how things align to usher in our next season in life. This quote fit the moment perfectly and helped me accept the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another.

I sometimes come back to this quote at times of change. It reminds me that risk is an inherent part of life. It is a necessary part of adventure and purpose. If you aren't taking risks then you may not be fully living in your purpose. I feel that this can apply to the therapeutic journey.

If You're On the Fence About Therapy

Considering starting therapy can be a terrifying thought. Facing your past hurts, relationship struggles and least favorite parts of life on a weekly basis can feel daunting. As I have said before, therapy is an investment of time, money and energy. Calling you into new versions of yourself. Versions of yourself that have to unlearn things that kept you safe, but no longer serve you. Deconstructing walls that maybe kept you from danger, but kept you from the good parts of life as well. It can feel like such a risk, that you don't consider what you might be missing out on if you don't try something different. Instead, you may be clinging to old narratives that say that it's selfish to make time for yourself, or that feeling your feelings is weak, or that tell you that things aren't that bad, when your gut is telling you otherwise. It is scary to go against these voices, when it seems they have our interests at heart. When these voices get loud, I encourage you to ask yourself what part of you are they protecting? What would make it feel safe to try something new?

The risk of staying where things are familiar and comfortable is that you may not be growing into your full potential, but that is not the only risk. Relationships call you into growth, often. When I say relationships, I mean all of the relationships, co-worker relationships, friendships, family relationships, romantic relationships, etc. Living in community with others requires us to show up in a way that maintains the health of the collective or forces us to leave. Others in your life, that depend on you, see you staying where it is safe rather than choosing to grow. They may even see this as your choosing comfort over them. To love is a risk, to heal is a risk and to refuse to grow is a risk as well.

What To Expect In Therapy

While therapy and growth are scary, we are built for connection and growth; we can withstand difficulty. Also, therapists are well aware that therapy is hard and growth can be exhausting. Therapists do their very best to make sure that therapy is comfortable and that you are learning the skills necessary to not only grow, but also to prevent and manage too much distress. So, speak up when you're with your therapist. If something isn't working for you, say so. If you need a break, let them know. If things are going well with them, you can tell them that, too, so that they can keep supporting you with what works. They'll be checking in with you as well, don't be afraid to be honest with them. Your therapy journey should be about what you need because learning how to receive care and showing up for yourself is how you learn to care for and show up better for others.

Choosing The Right Type of Therapy

There are a few different ways that you can engage in therapy, that might help make therapy more accessible for you. Of course, there is in-person therapy, which is great if you want to make sure that family members and roommates are out of earshot. Online therapy is great if you're short on time because you don't have to worry about a commute. Online therapy can also help you save on gas money. And group therapy can be a more cost effective way to participate in therapy as group therapy is often less than $100 a session. It can also help you feel less alone in your experience. Sometimes therapist directories will allow you to search for a therapist by whether or not they offer in-person, online or group therapy. You can also search for what you are looking for by entering " your preferred form of therapy + your location or zip code", so maybe "group therapy + Arvada Colorado" or "group therapy + 80005". If you happen to find a therapist that you like, but they do not offer the form of therapy that you want to engage in, you can ask them if they can offer referrals for therapists that have a similar style as them, but offer the form of therapy that you are looking for.

What To Do When You Decide That The Therapist Isn't The Right Fit

If you have discovered that the therapist you are working with is not the right fit, you can absolutely tell them. I know that it can feel strange to tell a therapist that you don't want to work with them anymore, but I encourage you to let them know. Letting them know allows them to reflect on their work and adjust with other clients, if necessary. It also gives you and the therapist the opportunity to process through the end of your therapeutic relationship. Also, therapists are very used to having clients leave to find a better fit. They understand the importance of a good fit in the relationship and likely will not be offended. They will also provide you with referrals to work with another therapist. If for some reason they don't provide that, ask them for referrals. You deserve, and even need, a good therapeutic fit. You will do your best work when you are working with a therapist that you like and trust.

If Therapy Isn't The Right Choice

As I said before, I understand that therapy is an investment and unfortunately, thanks to our broken healthcare system, it isn't one that everyone can afford. My next blog post will discuss ways to find affordable therapy in the Denver area, until then let's talk about some affordable places to start.

If therapy isn't possible right now due to money, time, preference, etc. There are some other places you can start. You can engage in work without a therapist through books, courses, mental health resource freebies on therapist websites and social media, podcasts by therapists, blog posts, etc. A great way to start is to google different therapy theories and seeing what resources come up related to that. Some popular theories related to relationships are Gottman Method, Emotionally Focused Therapy, and Attachment theory. I suggest using the resources that are closest to the original source. For instance, using a resource from the Gottman Institute, would likely be better than a resource from an untrained individual that has read a book by the Gottmans. Or something from a therapist would likely be more supportive and accurate than someone who has not been trained in a psychology related field. I, myself, provide free mental health resources on my website. You can check out my free attachment test and regulation guides here.

I hope this information helps you make the best decision for yourself. Whatever you decide, I hope you feel a little bit more prepared to brave the open sea of growth, rather than to remain in the harbor.

I'm wishing you the best on your healing journey! :)

P.S. If you want to sign up for my newsletter, so that you don't miss a blog post and you get the latest information about free resources, services and news follow this link. There will be a pop-up on the page that will prompt you to sign up. If you get the pop-up after you sign up, you can use the yellow "x" in the corner of the page on your desktop or bottom of the page (you may have to scroll) on your phone to exit.

This post is written by individual and couples therapist, Ashley Gray of Arvada, Colorado. Ashley works with her clients using Gottman Method Couples Therapy, EMDR Trauma Therapy, Prepare and Enrich, attachment focused therapy and techniques from Emotionally Focused Therapy. As a therapist, she is passionate about helping people build healthy relationships and supporting people with the resources they need. In her free time, Ashley hikes, paddle boards, reads, spends time with her husband and her cuddly dog. For more information about Ashley and her practice, click here.


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