Your Therapy “Packing List”

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By Elisabeth Kee, LPC

Therapy is a journey to the center of self. With the therapist as your guide, you’re about to embark on an adventure. You’ll explore. You’ll uncover new things about yourself and your relationships.

There’s always something slightly terrifying about a first session with a new therapist. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time in therapy, or if you’re a seasoned client.

What will happen? What am I supposed to be saying/doing? What am I about to discover about myself?

These questions can certainly be anxiety-provoking. After all, each therapeutic experience is unique. But, dear client, you’re not on this journey alone! 

Your therapist is alongside you to help navigate any tricky terrain and overcome obstacles that might be in your way. Still, you’re in control of the journey. You decide how fast or slow we go. You decide which goals you want to steer toward — or away from. You decide whether to broach an obstacle now, later or even never.

The path is arduous and not always straightforward, but it is a worthy one. How can you best prepare for it?

As a therapist, there are certain things I recommend that clients bring (or “pack”) to ensure that the journey is as smooth, comfortable and successful as possible: 

Packing List for a Therapeutic Journey

  1. Rations As for any trip, it’s always a good idea to bring food and water. While I do mean this somewhat literally (bring a water bottle or a snack with you into the therapy room, just in case), I mean it figuratively as well. The road ahead will be unpredictable at times, so I would encourage you to nourish your body. Drink plenty of water and eat healthily if you can even when you aren’t in the therapy room. When we take care of our physical bodies, we can more easily take care of our minds as well.

  2. Baggage — That’s right. All of that baggage that you’ve been hiding in the closet of your mind- it’s time to haul it out. Let me help you carry it. I will handle it with the utmost care. Don’t worry, we won’t unpack it until you are ready and we will do it at your own pace.

  3. Questions Clients have ideas of what therapy is, or what it should be. You may have ideas, comments, questions or concerns for me. That’s wonderful! I hope that my clients can open up to me about their fears surrounding therapy or concerns about me, because that conversation is important. We are about to go on a deeply intimate trip together after all! Through this conversation (and more if needed) I hope to alleviate some of the anxiety surrounding myself and therapy in general.

  4. Campfire Stories Stories are a powerful tool in therapy. We all have stories from our lives, and how we tell them gives insight into our lives as a whole. Sometimes clients worry that they’ve gone off on a “tangent” when telling a story about their lives, when the opposite is true. They have given me a gift. Through stories I learn more about my client’s lives, and insight into the past. In fact, it is often that the story they believed to be a frivolous anecdote turns out to be a pivotal moment in the journey. So bring your stories. I look forward to hearing them.

  5. First Aid Kit — Actually, we both will pack these. Mine might look a bit different, and I might transfer some of my tools over to you in time. I guess you could actually call this a “coping kit” as it contains all of the tools a client uses in times of crisis or emergency. There will be cuts and bruises in this journey. It is an inevitability of life (and therapy) that we get hurt, especially when we are walking head on into heavy issues and topics that have sometimes remained repressed for years. For these times, when therapy brings up a wound, we will lay out our kits and decide what is the best treatment. We may find some medicines to be no longer useful, some that only work for certain issues, and new options to add into the kit.

  6. Yourself — This is the most important part to pack. Bring yourself, client. Your full, true self. To fully undertake this journey and see it to its goal, you’ll need to jump in feet first. Though I am there to guide and help, I cannot push you or force you to that goal. So put the work in. You’ll find that therapy outcomes and the amount of work you put in is directly correlated. 

This may seem like a daunting task. But remember, it really is one step at a time. It doesn’t matter how long or short this journey will be. What matters is that you are doing it, and that’s an amazing feat in itself. How lucky am I, to journey alongside you. 

Now, we shall set off?

 

Why just survive when you can learn to thrive?

*In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to offer telemental health sessions.*

If you’re interested in learning more about individual psychotherapy or psychoanalysis, please contact us by submitting this form, or by phone at 847-729-3034. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.

 

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