So, you’re thinking about seeing a therapist! Yes, girl, yes! With the emergence of podcasts like Therapy for Black Girls and A Different Perspective focused on the clinical aspects of mental health, many Black women are opening up to the possibility that therapy may be a viable option to help us live our best lives. But traditionally, we haven’t been among the most likely to seek therapy. The stigma associated with needing mental health support and the belief that prayer can heal any ailment has often left us with very few reference points for what therapy may be like. We can’t necessarily call up our aunties and ask what therapy was like for them. So, we may find ourselves in a place of thinking about therapy but being stalled by our lack of familiarity with the process.
If you’re ready to take the plunge into the depths of who you are as a person by seeing a therapist, here are few things what to expect during your very first appointment:
Expect to be a little uncomfortable. In therapy, you’ll be talking to a complete stranger about your past hurts, current issues and future aspirations. These are all very intimate things to share with someone who you’ll probably never have a meal with and who’s mama you’ve never met. But, that’s what it takes to get started down the road of healing and wholeness. Your therapist will do their part to make you feel at ease and remind you that what you share, with very few exceptions, is confidential. But still, you don’t know them like that.
So, embrace the discomfort and take solace in knowing that connection is the most human of things. Your therapist can hold space for your range of emotions without needing to know details like your favorite color or your shoe size. It may take some time, but know that you will become more at ease with this new type of relationship.
Expect to talk about your ‘why’. In the first session, your therapist will likely ask what brought you therapy at this point in your life. Often, people seek therapy for a specific issue or need that they can verbalize. Other times, people may not know exactly why they need therapy. In either case, it’s ok. Though it may be helpful to spend some time thinking about your goals and what you hope to achieve or work through with your therapist, your goals can change. A skilled therapist will be able to help you gain clarity about your needs and support you as your needs change.
Expect to assess the relationship. The therapeutic relationship is just like any other intimate relationship (It’s really more like a situationship, but you know what I mean) in that it works best when you feel safe and accepted. Therapists are trained to be non-judgmental but, they are still human. Sometimes the biases and preference they have in their personal lives show up in their work and affect the therapeutic relationship. This can especially be the case when your therapist is of a different gender, race, or religion. Although we tend to connect through our similarities in all areas of life, including in therapy, keep in mind that sharing these characteristic with your therapist will not necessarily guarantee that the relationship will be fruitful. If for any reason you feel that your therapist does not ‘get’ you or won’t be a good fit for your needs, you can switch, TLC-style. No need to feel guilty and no need to wait and see. Trust that you know what will work for you and accept nothing less.
Anytime we take a step toward living our best life, it’s something to be proud of. Take a moment, right now, and pat yourself on the back for considering therapy as a way of healing and progressing in your life. Then, report back after your first therapy session. I’d love to hear how it went. Also, if you’ve been in therapy for some time, what was your first session like?