How To Set Realistic Expectations For Therapy
As humans, it’s easy to fall into the trap of setting high expectations for an experience and then feeling let down when we fail to meet that expectation. Therapy is no different. But setting expectations that are too high or unrealistic in therapy can be detrimental to your experience and take away from the progress you are making. It is essential, therefore, to learn how to set realistic expectations about what you will both learn and accomplish in the therapeutic space.
Begin by defining your goals for therapy – what exactly are you hoping to get out of the experience? Are you there to work through a specific relationship or experience, to feel less anxiety less often, or for overall mental and emotional well-being? Are you there to heal a trauma, to learn self-love, or are you attending couples therapy with your partner to increase intimacy and communication in your relationship?
Above all else, therapy is a place for you to learn how to build a healthy relationship with yourself. It is a place where you work with your brain, your body, your feelings and your emotions to make your life experience as pleasant and functional as possible. Therapy is not the place to make your life more difficult with increased pressure to perform or achieve.
At The Relationship Place, we understand the danger of setting unrealistic expectations for therapy and believe this often happens when someone doesn’t understand what they are getting into. In other words, unrealistic expectations occur when you have an idea about what therapy is but the reality doesn’t match up to the story. For this reason, we’ve created a list of ten ways to set realistic expectations of what you will learn and accomplish in therapy. Our hope is that knowing what to expect will allow you to track your progress over time, hold you accountable when things get challenging, and create a safe space for your healing and transformation to take place.
10 Tips for Setting Realistic Expectations for Therapy
- Expect a safe, nurturing, and neutral space in which to explore your thoughts and feelings.
- Expect highs and lows, ups and downs, peaks and valleys. Therapy is not a linear experience and sometimes things get worse before they get better.
- Expect your therapist to offer tools and techniques for navigating your thoughts, feelings, emotions, experiences, and relationships. Expect that your therapist is not there to save you, rather to support and guide you.
- Expect that therapy requires patience. Therapy for mental and emotional health is a process, not a one-time event. Just like getting physically fit takes time, patience, and commitment so does getting mentally and emotionally fit. We don’t go to the gym once or twice and expect our bodies to change and this idea applies to therapy as well.
- Gather information on what you are there to heal. Did you suffer a trauma? Are you unable to maintain healthy relationships? Have you been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder? Even if you have entered therapy as a way to increase your overall well-being, it can be helpful to educate yourself on the process.
- Make the goal to increase your overall health and well-being, not to “get rid” of something you are carrying or change what is “wrong” with you.
- Work with your therapist to set expectations for yourself. She or he is a great resource.
- Stay flexible and curious. You never know what might come up when you begin therapy and you may go down paths you never even knew existed. Trust that whatever comes up is the right thing to explore.
- In therapy, like all things, what you get is what you put in. Showing up each week, being willing to look and feel deeply into yourself, and doing the work to transform your thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors will greatly enhance the results of therapy. On the other hand, going once or twice and expecting big changes is likely going to cause frustration and disappointment.
- Acknowledge the advances you are making, both big and small. Stay focused on the journey and not the destination.
Our therapists at The Relationship Place are here to support you and answer any questions you might have. Call us today for a free fifteen-minute consultation to learn more about what to expect in therapy. Your journey begins today.