Therapy: How it Works and What to Expect

Wangu Muthoni


Therapy, also called psychotherapy is a form of treatment that is used to relieve mental illnesses and emotional distress. Therapy is provided by psychologists, psychiatrists, and licensed counselors. These trained professionals examine and give insights about life choices and challenges faced by individuals and families through therapy sessions. Most of the therapy methods used have been tested and proven to be effective. And although therapy is expensive, it has many life-changing benefits.


There are hundreds of effective and compassionate therapists. However, not every therapist can be the right person to offer help to you, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Therefore, finding the best therapist can be a challenging and frustrating process of trial and error. Eventually, there will be the perfect therapist for you. You shouldn’t give up on therapy because of failure to find the best fit for you.


Before we begin, it is good to know when you or someone you know might need to go to therapy. Some typical situations when you can go to therapy include:


  • You have experienced something life changing e.g., death of a spouse or parent.
  • Your coping mechanisms for a mental illness are not working like they used to.
  • You are facing a stressful life situation and wonder if therapy could help.
  • You regularly feel overwhelmed or hopeless.
  • Everything is fine, but you want to maintain or enhance your well-being.
  • You want to learn more about yourself.


Additionally, a therapist can help you with emotional distress as well as general things in life: A therapist will usually help you with things such as:


  • Help you find the solutions you need.
  • Guide you with reaching your goals.
  • Teach you new skills that you can apply to you everyday life.
  • Not attempt to fix you.


Now, let’s assume that you have decided that therapy is the right step for you. How do you find a therapist? We have a list of therapists available whom you can contact. The list can be found here. When looking for therapists, it is important to interview multiple therapists to find one who can help you best. Some questions that you can ask a potential therapist are:


  •  How much do you charge, and do you take insurance? If they take insurance, confirm that they take the type of insurance you have.
  • What’s your treatment approach? What does a typical session look like?
  • Have you treated other people with similar challenges to mine?
  • What licenses and certifications do you have?
  •  Do you go to therapy?


Hopefully by now you have found a therapist(s) you like. Below are some things you can do to prepare to go for your therapy session:

  • Research your therapist; do they seem suitable? Schedule a consultation first.
  • Keep an open mind and remind yourself that a therapist is there to guide, not to judge. It’s safe to share your story.
  • Have a therapy journal for things you learn during sessions.
  •  Make lists of things you want to talk about during your session to refer back to if you are feeling stuck.

For the actual therapy session, it is important to set expectations. Some things you can expect when starting therapy could be:


  • It might feel a little bit awkward and uncomfortable at first.
  • It might take a while for you to see the benefits of therapy in your life. Healing takes time.
  • You might have to look around and see multiple therapists before finding the right one.
  • You have to apply the things you learn in therapy to your everyday life.


What you need to do between your therapy sessions:


  • Recharge with self-care. Take a walk, exercise, listen to music, meet with friends or read a novel.
  • Do your therapy homework.
  • Make notes about future topics you would like to discuss with your therapist.
  • Practice what you have worked on in therapy.


While going to therapy, it helps a lot to have self-compassion, allowing yourself to be proud and confident that you are taking a step that will help you heal and grow. Self-compassion in therapy can mean:

  • Being patient with yourself and understanding that you might not have big breakthroughs every time.
  • Not being too hard on yourself if you struggle with your therapy homework.
  • Knowing that you are allowed to cry and struggle with finding the right words.
  • Remembering to give yourself time and self-care after sessions.
  • Accepting that your therapy journey may look different to someone else’s.


Though therapy is helpful, there is still a stigma around seeking such kind of professional help. Therefore, it is good to notice instances when there is stigma. These instances can present as:

  • Pitying someone for “having to” see a therapist.
  • Trying to convince someone not to seek therapy.
  • Using “you need therapy” as an insult.
  • Treating someone like they’re weak or fragile because they go to therapy.
  • Assuming that something awful must have happened for a person to need therapy.


If you happen to be seeing a therapist, there could come a time when you feel that their help is not working for you. In such a case, it is good to find a new therapist. Some scenarios that could mean that you should find a new therapist include:

  • You are unable to feel comfortable with your therapist, no matter what you do.
  • Your therapist makes unfitting assumptions and refuses to be corrected.
  • You feel like your therapist’s methods are no longer suitable or helpful to you, and you don’t feel like you are growing.
  • Your therapist judges or dismisses your problems or facts unethically.


When therapy isn’t working, it is important to talk to your therapist first instead of quitting therapy. Together, you can figure out if there is something they should do differently and discuss your goals and expectations. They can recommend other options if you come to a conclusion that a different therapist or approach is the better fit.


While knowing when to find a therapist is good, it is equally important to know when a therapist is doing a good job. Some signs that can help you know that your therapist is good are:


  • Their methods are useful and helpful to you.
  • They don’t pressure you to talk about things you are not ready to discuss.
  • They are receptive to feedback and criticism.
  • They know that you are not always right and that you are the expert of your own experiences.


Therapy is essential in promoting mental health. There is no set timeline for therapy. You don’t need to wait until it gets worse to go to therapy. You can start as early as NOW.