Therapy can be a resource for anyone to find more meaning, balance, and emotional coping mechanisms in their daily lives. Everyone has areas of life where they can use help and guidance from time to time. There may be things that people struggle to deal with and process on their own. Whatever it is, a therapist can help them accomplish that.

If you think you might benefit from speaking with a therapist, don’t hesitate to take that first step. If you don’t know what to talk about, or you don’t know what you’re feeling, or you don’t know how to connect with other people when you feel this way, your therapist can help you dig down deep.

If you’re having trouble getting started, you’re not alone. We’ve collected eight tips for starting therapy and help you get the most out of your sessions.

1. Don’t wait until you reach a breaking point to start therapy

You don’t need to wait until your problems feel big enough to benefit from therapy. If you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, unhappy or you are not sure what you’re feeling at all, these might be signs that your “check engine” light is on. Plenty of people try to ignore symptoms because mental health is often easier to brush off as not urgent, but procrastinating often allows the problem to grow. If you wait until things get really bad, the harder it will be to address them later on.

2. Beware of stigmas that might be holding you back from seeking help

To this day, there’s stigma that surrounds mental healthcare and many misconceptions that continue to keep people from getting the care they need.

If you are feeling fear of being stigmatized, a good first step is to reconsider what therapy means for yourself. “I think of seeing a therapist as just getting a second opinion about what you’re doing,” says Pahoua Yang, Vice President of Community Mental Health and Wellness at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. “And then you can decide from there.”

While seeing a therapist used to be an activity shrouded in secrecy, today it’s something that many people feel comfortable discussing openly in their social circles.

3. Expect a settling-in process

When it comes to finding a therapist, “fit” is extremely important, so take your time looking through potential therapists, reading about out their experience, specialties, and their fees. You may even find that you need to talk to one or two providers before finding the right fit for you and your specific needs. Often, the first therapy session will be a trial run for both, you and your therapist.

4. Create a positive space for your therapy sessions

It’s important to ensure that you have a private, positive space for your therapy. Attending therapy online can help you feel more comfortable since you’ll be in familiar surroundings at home. If you find trouble with privacy for living in a busy household, you can talk to your therapist about establishing a safe word that you can use to indicate someone is in the room, or see if you can do sessions in a car, garage, or even on a walk.

5. Be open and honest

Talk through events, feelings, and thoughts as they really are. Don’t change them because you worry the therapist will have some judgment about you. Facing your difficulties and negative views authentically will help make your therapy more successful.

Talk through the thoughts that feel small, stupid, or shameful. Don’t censor yourself, judging your feelings as “right”, “wrong”, “important” or “insignificant.” Give yourself the permission to express all your thoughts and feelings without any judgment. Therapy should feel like a safe, comfortable space where you can say anything.

6. Don’t rush the process.

Don’t expect your therapist to be able to solve all your problems for you. Your therapist may know the right questions to ask, to help you discover things about yourself and find the right answers for you, but they’re not able to do the work for you.

This transition can be a quick or a slow process and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Some sessions might feel satisfying with ‘breakthroughs’, while others might feel frustrating.

7. Start a journal

If think you’ll have trouble coming up with topics to discuss in therapy, consider starting a journal practice. The act of writing down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences can be incredibly liberating, and you can bring your journal with you to therapy and use your notes to jump-start the conversation.

Like exercise, journaling requires commitment and regularity, so set aside a time and special place for journaling, and stick to it. Write down whatever thoughts and feelings come into your mind, or even about some vivid dreams you have had. According to Ryan Howes, a clinical psychologist, dreams could be windows into your psyche, and the act of sharing that dream with your therapist can help unlock certain parts of yourself.

8. Do it for yourself

If you start therapy for somebody else’s benefit or because you’ve been told to attend, and you’re doing it simply because you feel an obligation, you may not get the most out of it. Generally, it’s better to come into therapy through the understanding that even though others may benefit from you having treatment, therapy is a personal choice, because you want to make progress and experience a positive change in your life.

Once you go through the first 7 steps, it is time to find a therapist. There are different options when looking for a good therapist. If you have health insurance, you can check if your insurance company has therapists that are covered by your plan.

If you don’t have health insurance, or your plan doesn’t cover therapy services, you can access virtual therapy services through Health Karma, for a low monthly price. Explore our Total Health Plan, through which you can enjoy access to Virtual Urgent Care and Mental Health Services, including Talk Therapy, Teen Therapy, and Psychiatry, all from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

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