What Is It Like to Go to Therapy?

Young man on chair in behavioral therapy session

By Matthew Sadowsky, MA, LPM


Even before the pandemic began, more than a quarter of American adults were experiencing depression, anxiety or another behavioral health disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The stress of the pandemic has only caused those numbers to increase.

Recent reports show that more people are seeking mental health services, such as therapy appointments at a behavioral health center or treatment from a primary care provider. When the American Psychological Association surveyed its health professionals last fall, more than 84 percent said they had seen an increase in demand for anxiety treatment, and 72 percent have seen an increase for treatment for depression.

Anyone who is feeling depressed or anxious should know that they’re not alone. Treatment works, and there are different ways a team of health professionals can help.

Mental health treatment includes a range of services, depending on your needs. You might need medication, for example, and many people benefit from psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy.” Psychotherapy is a health service where you work with a therapist to discover and change emotions, thoughts, or behaviors so you can live a happier, healthier life.

Therapy is unique to each person because everyone is different. If needed, your family medicine doctor or a behavioral health specialist might recommend psychotherapy as a first treatment — with or without medication.

Who should consider therapy?

Therapists are trained to help people of all ages with all kinds of concerns. For example, you might seek out psychotherapy if you’re dealing with stress from a job or family situation, the loss of a loved one, or difficulty managing the life activities that seem easy for other people. Or perhaps you’re experiencing physical symptoms with no real explanation, such as changes in sleep or appetite, low energy, loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, or a sense of worry, discouragement, or hopelessness that won’t go away.

It can be difficult to make the decision to ask for help. In the past, there has been a stigma attached to needing mental health supports. Today, that is not the case.  Many public figures are openly talking about the importance of seeking help when they need it.  Having your mental health needs met is no different than receiving any other type of healthcare.

What happens during therapy?

Like any new experience, if it’s your first time in therapy it’s perfectly normal to feel a little nervous about the process. Your first psychotherapy session is a time for you and your therapist to get to know each other. He or she will likely ask several questions about your reasons for coming in, and together, the two of you will decide on goals for your therapy.

Talk therapy sessions are grounded in collaborative conversations between you and your therapist who will provide a supportive environment that allows you to speak openly. A therapist is someone who is objective and nonjudgmental, which makes it feel safe to share your experiences.

Anything you say in therapy is held in confidence and won’t be repeated to others. It’s important to remember, however, that therapy is goal-oriented and not just a session to talk about your troubles. Your therapist will challenge you to grow and learn to move you toward the life you want to live.

Additionally, you might be asked certain questions during therapy, such as whether you feel like harming yourself or others. This may be uncomfortable to answer, but it is important for your therapist to know this information from the get-go, so that he or she can be sure to provide the appropriate level of care or refer you to a healthcare provider who can.

Over time, you and your therapist will work together to identify and change the things that are keeping you from feeling your best. He or she will guide you to solutions and new approaches that work for you. All the new skills you learn will also help you better cope with whatever challenges you face in the future.

How long does therapy take?

How long therapy lasts often depends on the reason you came to therapy, your goals, and how quickly you make progress. Some people feel relief after only few therapy sessions. Other patients and situations take longer—maybe a year or two—to benefit from therapy. Those who have experienced serious trauma, have multiple conditions to manage, or just feel unclear about what’s making them unhappy, might spend more time in treatment. Again, every person is different.

It’s important to understand that there could be some ups and downs. The goal is to move in a positive direction overall, which might not be a straight line of upward progress from week to week.

At Lamoille Health Behavioral Health & Wellness Center, we believe a clear mind is essential to total health. Our professional teams provide quality mental health and substance use counseling services for adults, couples, adolescents, families, and children. We serve all those in need to address the physical, mental, and emotional causes of disease, to help them heal, work through conflict, enhance their sense of well-being, and find peace of mind. Call us to make an appointment today.