Entering Counseling with Realistic Expectations of the Therapist and the Process: Six Things to Consider

Therapy can be helpful to many, but the unknowns about how it works can contribute to some hesitation in getting started. Here I provide an idea of what a client can expect from the experience. 

1. Therapists do not possess a magic wand with which we can undo all the bad in someone’s life. As much as we want our clients to find satisfaction and/or relief, it needs to be a joint effort and will require some work on the part of the client (such as sharing about themselves and willingness to trying new options).

2. Humans are complex so in working with them, we therapists do not have all the answers. Not only would we be fooling ourselves if we thought we did, but it may also seem like a disservice if we robbed the client of their own deeper search for solutions and personal understanding. An unrealistic expectation would be for us to know everything about every concern that any client could particularly bring into session. If we have done a good job networking, we have connections and can lead a client in the right direction if a concern is beyond our specialty or experience.

3. We are not perfect. Despite good intentions, mistakes are possible, whether it be an error in scheduling or something we say comes out differently than intended. Even though it is our job to help others work on their “stuff”, we have our own “stuff”. Ideally we have adequate self-awareness so that we work through our own personal areas where we need growth.

4. Change requires a process. Some issues a person wants to address are appropriate for a brief, solution-focused approach but this is not often the case. Certainly it can feel better to have talked to some one one or two times, but for long-lasting, significant changes it will often take more time.

5. We don’t always know what to say. We don’t have a script to read from to have a response to every situation that is presented to us. If you think about it, this is a good thing because how insincere would it seem if we did! The therapeutic relationship would be hard to develop if we were robotic in our interactions. We should be very intentional about what we say and how we say it, so sometimes there will be pauses in the conversation while we are figuring that out.

6. If you have done therapy before, don’t expect the next experience to be the same (although there likely would be some commonalities). There is a wide range of personalities found among therapists. Some do more talking, some do more listening. The most important thing is for you to feel like you have found a good fit with someone who meets your needs and with whom you feel comfortable.

If you have additional questions or think you may want to begin the counseling process, please contact Rita with Sioux Falls Wellness Counseling at 605-610-9228.

Rita Hansen is a licensed professional counselor with Sioux Falls Wellness Counseling. She can be reached by calling (605) 610-9228.