Carolyn Hax: What does therapy look like?


Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Caroline: What does therapy look like? I’m struggling with anxiety and depression, which have gotten much worse during the pandemic. I think I need to talk to someone or maybe even get some medication. I keep encouraging myself to contact a therapist, commit to it and look through my health insurance company for options, but then never go through with it.

It makes me feel paralyzed. I’m starting to wonder what’s expected of me. Are they just going to sit and expect me to do all the talking? Will my family members hear me speak when it’s online? Would it be weird if I got in the car? What if I start crying and can’t speak during the session? What if I don’t like the therapist?

All of these things start spinning in my head and I end up telling myself it’s too hard. Can you or some of the other readers provide some insight into how a therapy session actually works?

Whirl: 1. Yes, get in the car.

2. They have did that before. Therapists ask questions to get you talking.

3. Yes, cry. I’ve never seen a counseling center without several boxes of facial tissues. When you’re done crying, you can talk again. They’ve seen that before too.

4. If you don’t like the therapist, choose another one. You can ask your current therapist for a recommendation accordingly.

I realize that seems towering with the barrier to entry in finding it one Provider seems too high, let alone two or who knows how many – but tell yourself: you have an illness and you want a second opinion.

If you need a place to search, try Open Path Collective (requires the same verification as any other provider).

Break this up into small steps and don’t look past the step you’re in right now. For now, this is a date night, so don’t worry about future moves, just this one. Make an appointment. Watch after.

  • My therapist mentioned that he has several clients who go for a walk during their session. It keeps them from being interrupted or overheard while also giving them exercise, and sometimes exercise helps. For years, therapists have become accustomed to all the different ways people can get some privacy for a session.
  • You can do it! I believe in you! You will feel so much better! I have seen three therapists in my life and they have all helped me in their own way. I cried in all their offices and it was normal and fine. In fact, it made me feel a lot better because, as my therapist watched me, he was able to give me advice on how to cope with overwhelming thoughts that made me cry. They will ask you lots of questions to get you talking. Her job is to calm you down and build a relationship so you can work together on what’s bothering you. The great thing about therapists is that their only goal is to help you!
  • I was in the same boat – waited WAY too long to finally try to make an appointment for my depression. I found that a referral from my GP was a good start.

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