What Does Therapy Look Like?

Medically reviewed by: Wendy Rasmussen, PhD
Wednesday, June 22 2022

Whether you’re thinking about starting therapy or preparing for your first session, you may be wondering what the therapy journey looks like. Just like most journeys in life, the path you’ll follow throughout therapy won’t be linear. There will be twists and turns along the way, and the real work will happen in between sessions. It’s hard stuff, and you may feel changes in your motivation or experience frustrations at times, but these are all normal bumps in the road. 

Whether you're preparing for your first online therapy session or meeting with your therapist in person, here are a few things you can expect as you embark on your therapy journey.

Getting to know your therapist  

The first step in any new relationship is getting to know each other, and that’s exactly what you’ll do in your first session with your therapist. They’ll ask you questions about your background and why you’ve decided to begin therapy. And you can take this opportunity to ask your therapist questions, too. Through these initial conversations, you’ll get a feel as to whether or not they’re a good fit for you. A quality relationship with your therapist is key to a successful therapy journey, so it’s important you feel you’re building a good rapport with them with each session. 

Building the roadmap 

Once you and your therapist get to know each other and you decide they’re a good fit, you’ll work with them to set goals, and together, you’ll develop a plan to achieve them. Some goals may be bigger than others, but the main purpose is to help you reach your end goal — the final destination of your therapy journey. You’ll work with your therapist to visualize what that end goal is, and build a roadmap of smaller goals to help you get there. 

Taking the wheel

After you’ve developed your therapy roadmap with your therapist, it will be time to put it to the test. This is where the hard work begins. To help you achieve your goals, your therapist will have you put what you’ve learned in your therapy sessions into practice. This means working on things on your own outside of therapy. These tasks may come in the form of assignments from your therapist. Or, it may be a less formal process. Either way, part of your therapy journey will include taking action with what you’ve learned in therapy on your own time. 

There’s no defined time for how long it may take you to complete an assignment, achieve a goal, or reach your ultimate end goal in therapy. It could take weeks, months, or even years. Monitoring your progress in therapy is an important part of the process.  

Reaching your destination 

Once you’ve achieved the goals you’ve set with your therapist and you feel that you’re in a good place in your life, you may wonder if it’s necessary to continue therapy. This is something you can talk to your therapist about. Depending on how you’re feeling, it might make sense to put a partial pause on therapy and set up less frequent sessions. Or, if you feel you’ve reached your final goal, you can put a full pause on therapy and discontinue sessions for the time being. 

No matter your decision, it’s important to work with your therapist to make sure you have the resources and support in your life outside of therapy to help you with whatever challenges the future might bring. What’s great about your therapy journey is that it never has to end — you can always return to therapy if you feel you need to. 

Dealing with setbacks 

You’re bound to hit some bumps in the road throughout your therapy journey. You may even feel like you’re going backwards at times. Therapy is hard work, and it can be normal to have setbacks during the therapy process. Be open with your therapist when you feel like you’re reverting to old behaviors, thoughts, or feelings that you thought you had overcome. They’ll help you reevaluate your goals, reset them if needed, and get you back on track. 

No matter how many windy roads and unpredictable roadblocks you hit, remember that consistency is key. Follow your roadmap and stay the path, even when you’re navigating it on your own outside of therapy sessions. Keep in mind that it’s normal to feel lost or unsure at times. You can always turn to your therapist for guidance to get you headed back in the right direction. 

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