Before the first session, the psychotherapist is at ease: where to start a conversation? How to say if the doctor doesn’t like it? Is therapy definitely not for the “crazy”? Author Anjali Pinto herself went through this and then decided to interview at your therapist to help us all stop being afraid of the prefix “psycho”, long conversations and tears in the doctor’s office.
Anjali Pinto is a writer and photographer from Chicago. Her photographs and essays are published in The Washington Post, Harper’s Bazaar, and Rolling Stone.
A few years ago, Anjali’s husband died unexpectedly. From that moment on, she posted photos on Instagram every day for a year and wrote about her life without him.
It took her several months to decide to go to a therapist. For a while she was looking for the “same” specialist. And when I found it, I decided to speak with him publicly, so that other people could also choose the right therapist for them.
– I found you on the recommendation of a friend who visits a psychotherapist, but not everyone can find a specialist in this way. Where to start the search?
– The best option for finding a therapist is to ask friends, search online and look at referral sites. It is worth reading what psychologists say on their pages, and choosing what attracts and interests you more.
At the first meeting, you meet the therapist. If you don’t like something or you feel that it’s not your person, do not agree on the next session. It’s better to say: “This is not suitable for me, I want to try with someone else.” You can talk with several therapists before you meet someone suitable.
I tell all my clients that compatibility with a therapist is very important. We need someone who will match you on a personal level, who will be caring and compassionate as you need it, and who will test you as much as you want. A specialist may not suit you, and this is normal. A good therapist understands this.
– Is it possible to advise online therapy to those who cannot afford full-time practice?
“Honestly, I don’t know enough about that.” But I’m not a big fan of pen therapy because an important part of the practice is personal relationships. Even in silence, there may be therapeutic healing, and the texts seem faceless.
But I consider video chats effective. You need to choose a therapist for video communication sessions as you would a regular one – get to know and see if it suits you. If not, look for a new one.
– I am a colored woman and I identify myself as a queer (queer is a person whose sexuality does not fit into existing gender stereotypes. – Note ed.) At the opening session with my first therapist, I felt that the woman sitting opposite did not understand me.
– Unfortunately, the responsibility for finding a therapist who adheres to certain values lies with the client. As I said, do not be afraid to openly tell the therapist what you are looking for at the first contact.
“This is exactly what I did after my first failed experiment.” She stated bluntly: “Hi, I’m an atheist, queer, black woman, and my husband is dead. I want to make sure that your practice will make you feel comfortable on all sides of my personality. ”
– Yes! Just let it know and appreciate the therapist’s response – how open he is and accepts you. On my site, I say that I will create a safe environment for everyone, regardless of their lifestyle.
– I can easily refuse, therefore, after the first unsuccessful meeting, I calmly sent the psychotherapist an email with an apology and asked to cancel the second session, because I did not feel a connection with him.
– You can simply say: “I am forced to cancel our next meeting and do not want to plan our schedule yet.”
– When we first met, it was difficult for me to immediately tell my story. Putting everything that happened to me in 60 or 90 minutes was impossible. What to do at the first meeting for those whose problems span months, years, or maybe all childhood or marriage?
– In our situation, you have told enough to understand your story in general terms. For someone who needs to talk about their childhood, it will take more time. Firstly, at one time it is impossible to tell everything, and secondly, you need to go at your own pace.
I remember how at our first meeting I asked if you feel normal talking about the death of your husband. I was worried that you had shared too much and left with the feeling that it was too hard for you. Every time I consult a person with injuries, I remind him: there is nothing wrong with the fact that he will not tell everything for this session, we will still have time. This is a natural process of acquaintance and immersion in history.
Part of the healing consists in pronouncing what happened, reliving the situations anew. It is not so simple as writing everything down on a piece of paper and letting the therapist read it. You told me how you turned on the sound of an ambulance siren at home after Jacob’s death. It was a strong moment that I also experienced with you. It took you a while to feel comfortable and start sharing your story.
“I understood that I would go to the therapist after my husband died.” But I was preparing for this for five or six months. It frightened me that I had to be honest and vulnerable to a stranger. How to relax and prepare for the first visit to those who have long been in need of help, but are afraid to go for therapy?
– A thousand obstacles may appear on the way to therapy, you just need to understand what is stopping you. Each anxiety manifests itself in different ways. For example, I always worry about parking. When I ask: “What is the situation with parking in your office?” – I feel that I am managing the situation, and I imagine how I get to the therapist. This makes the situation less stressful and intimidating.
In the presence of a therapist, you should feel safe and comfortable. When setting out for your first session, think about your expectations and cheer yourself up. Seeking help is a bold step. Remember that you control the situation. If you do not like the first session, you can no longer return.
– What do you think is the most important misconception about psychotherapy?
– That the therapy is intended only for “crazy” people. The media portray therapists as scary, cold, and fake people. In fact, most professionals in a good way adore their customers. We chose this profession because we like to see how our clients succeed, come to understand their lives, learn to make bold decisions and calmly respond to their mistakes.
I have the best job in the world, I do exactly what I think is necessary, and I enjoy it. I learn from clients and am proud of my work. I am sure that most psychotherapists feel the same way. I am happy for people who take risks and start therapy. I want my customers to be happy.
– I have friends who do not like their therapists. Perhaps they do not fit each other or over time, their sessions ceased to make sense. What exactly should a client expect from their GP? Some people cannot immediately evaluate their compatibility, especially if they have not been involved in psychotherapy before.
– This is a wonderful question. The answer is blurry – you just have to enjoy talking with your therapist. To check, you can answer one question: are you sure that you are working with your own needs, and not with those that the therapist has chosen?
Another way is to look at your progress. Does your therapist ask uncomfortable questions and help you look at the problem from a different angle? The classic trick is that we just nod and say “yep.”
Part of my job is to listen to clients, and part is to help them with an understanding of themselves. I ask questions, try to encourage them to not doubt other situations. I am not just a friend, I ask uncomfortable questions and offer that understanding, which they might not be able to come to on their own.
On the client’s side, therapy should not be just a story: first it happened, then it. Yes, sometimes you just need to tell what is happening in your life. But still need sessions with questions and introspection. They are discussing and studying what you are dealing with and what you are trying to understand.
– Before therapy, I did not understand the uniqueness of the connection between the therapist and the client. I feel that you are my friend, but I know that the only focus is on me. And I don’t have to shoulder your problems and carry them home. This cannot be with friends. In my opinion, it is indecent to meet a friend and talk about yourself all the time, without asking about his affairs. And here I can do that. I never felt selfish because we only talk about me.
– This is important enough. If a client comes to my session and says: “My husband and I had a big fight today. How was your day off? ” – I understand that he is worried and wants to check if everything is in order with me. But I do not expect this from my clients. Healthy boundaries needed.
Even arranging for this interview, I wanted to make sure that you would be comfortable meeting in my office, because it is also part of your therapy.
It is easy for people to take care, and many find it difficult to give up. They are in a world where you need to pay attention to others, so it’s easier for clients to ask me about my life than to take care of themselves.
Therapy is good because here you can talk about anything, and I will listen to you. I will not blame you, but I can express doubts. And I will do it because I care about you.
– I came to you without thinking about how long our practice will last. I did not have a time frame. Will therapy help those who need short-term care?
– I think this: come, take the tools to solve life’s difficulties and leave. Everything is fine. I have many people who regularly come to me for a year, and then take a break. And they come back when they start families, face death or a break in relations. There should not be any pressure. I think that therapy can also help people with a short-term problem. You come in five sessions, get what you need, and leave with a sense of benefit.
“Is there something I didn’t ask, but do you want to add this?” How else can you inspire people to visit a therapist?
– Therapy is a place where they listen to you and try to help. The only thing you have to do is be yourself and want to talk. And my job is to connect your ideas together, look at them from the side and see the whole picture.
Feeling uncomfortable during a session, crying or sitting in silence is normal. And some believe that you need to come with an agenda and a prepared topic for conversation.
Frank conversations on topics that seem shameful or too personal to us help get rid of the negative power that these topics have over us. Therapy helps to understand who we really are. This feeling is wonderful, and it inspires us to show the real us to others.
How to find and communicate with your psychotherapist
- Ask for recommendations from friends and acquaintances, study specialized sites, look for reviews.
- When making an appointment, honestly tell the therapist who you are and what you expect from him.
- Do not be afraid to ask questions and refuse the second meeting if the therapist has not approached you.
- If you have chosen online therapy, communicate by video, not by correspondence.
- Take your time and tell your story at a pace that is convenient for you.
- Do not be afraid to look impolite, speaking only about yourself.