How to Navigate the
Path to Healing: 8
Steps to Start Therapy
Embarking on the journey of therapy can be a transformative and empowering decision, signaling a commitment to prioritize mental and emotional well-being. Whether you're seeking therapy for personal growth, managing stress, or addressing specific challenges, the process of starting therapy can feel both exciting and daunting. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the essential steps to initiate therapy, from understanding the different types of therapy to finding the right therapist for your needs.
Step 1: The Decision to Start Therapy
Deciding to start therapy is a personal and courageous choice. Acknowledge that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Reflect on your reasons for seeking therapy, whether it's to navigate life transitions, improve relationships, or cope with stress. Setting clear goals for therapy can provide a roadmap for both you and your therapist, ensuring a more focused and productive therapeutic journey.
Step 2: Commit to the Process of Therapy
Congratulations on taking your first step towards healing; making the decision to start therapy. It’s now important for you to commit to the process of therapy which for someone who has never done this before, can be very daunting.
The therapy process is most effective with regular, committed, and collaborative engagement in your process with your therapist. Just as a course of physical therapy will be most helpful after a surgery if the person attends regularly and follows through with their recommended care plan, mental health therapy will be the most beneficial and impactful when you bring a similarly engaged and committed orientation.
Step 3: Understanding the Types of Therapy
Now that you’ve successfully completed steps one and two, it’s time to start honing in on what type of therapy would be most beneficial for you. Are you seeking support for just yourself, for your marriage or partnership, your family or a combination? To help you narrow your search, here’s a brief breakdown of these three branches of psychotherapy.
Individual therapy is a one-on-one therapeutic process wherein a person works with a therapist to explore personal challenges, emotions, and behaviors. It is particularly effective for addressing individual issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, and personal growth. Individual therapy delves into the unique experiences and concerns of a single individual, providing a more personalized and focused approach to mental health.
Couples therapy, also known as marriage or relationship counseling, focuses on the dynamics between two individuals in an intimate relationship. It aims to enhance communication, resolve conflicts, and strengthen the bond between partners.
Family therapy on the other hand, extends its scope to include multiple family members, addressing interpersonal relationships and systemic patterns within the family unit. It seeks to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and promote a healthier family dynamic.
Step 4: Understanding the Types of Therapy Modalities
You do not need to fully understand all the different types of therapy available to you but it is important to understand that therapies vary and are not one-size-fits all.
If this step is too overwhelming for you and will deter you from step four: Finding a Therapist, then please give us a call at the Minnesota Clinic for Health and Wellness and our trained staff will ask you specific questions in order to direct you to the right type of therapy and therapist for you.
However, it can be very beneficial to familiarize yourself with key therapeutic approaches in order to discern which technique aligns best with your goals and requirements. Clearly defining your therapeutic objectives from the beginning can provide your therapist with direction and facilitate progress toward healing.
Below are the most common types of therapy, all of which are represented in the practice styles of MCHW's competent and caring clinicians:
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is a widely used approach that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It is effective for managing various mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
Psychodynamic therapy explores unconscious thoughts and early life experiences to understand and address deep-seated emotional issues. This approach is valuable for individuals seeking insight into their emotions and relationships.
Humanistic therapies, such as person-centered therapy, emphasize self-exploration and personal growth. These approaches empower individuals to tap into their inner resources for positive change.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
DBT combines cognitive and behavioral techniques with mindfulness. It is effective for individuals dealing with emotion regulation difficulties and is often used in the treatment of conditions like borderline personality disorder.
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy
ERP therapy is a cognitive-behavioral approach primarily used to break the cycle of anxiety in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It involves systematically exposing individuals to anxiety-triggering situations related to their obsessions while preventing the usual compulsive responses.
Trauma Informed Therapy
Trauma-informed therapy is an approach that recognizes and responds to the widespread impact of trauma on individuals. This approach often involves educating clients about the impact of trauma, fostering a sense of control and choice in the therapeutic process, and incorporating interventions that address the specific needs arising from traumatic experiences. Some modalities used in trauma-informed therapy include EMDR, ART, Sensorimotor, Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga, Safe and Sound Protocol.
Yoga therapy (not to be confused with traditional yoga) combines traditional yoga practices with therapeutic techniques to address physical, mental, and emotional imbalances. Tailored to individual needs, it includes asanas, pranayama, meditation, and mindfulness. Used alongside conventional treatments, yoga therapy aims to manage stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, fostering self-awareness and empowering individuals to achieve holistic well-being. Trained yoga therapists guide clients through personalized practices, promoting balance and vitality.
Step 5: Finding the Right Therapist
Research and Referrals
If you’re comfortable, a great place to start looking for a therapist is by asking for recommendations from friends, family, or your primary care physician. They may have personal experiences or know someone who can recommend a therapist.
Online vs. In-Person
Online therapy offers several advantages. First, it eliminates the need for travel, saving you time and money. It also provides greater flexibility in scheduling. Online therapy may also be more accessible for individuals with physical disabilities or social anxiety.
In-person therapy, the traditional approach, involves face-to-face sessions between the therapist and client in a physical office or clinical setting. This format allows for a direct, in-the-moment connection, with nuances of body language and non-verbal cues contributing to the therapeutic process.
Both modalities have their merits, and the choice between them depends on individual preferences, comfort levels, and practical considerations. At Minnesota Clinic for Health and Wellness we have therapists who offer both in-person and virtual therapy to accommodate all of our client’s needs.
Credentials and Specializations
Verify the therapist's credentials and check if they have experience in dealing with issues similar to yours.
To make this research simpler our directory of providers at Minnesota Clinic for Health and Wellness includes credentials, specialities, approach techniques, education, experience and whether they take in-person or virtual clients. You can also see a picture of our practitioners and read about who they are outside of their practice.
Building a trusting and comfortable relationship with your therapist is crucial for the success of therapy.
If you would like help finding a therapist who will be a good fit for you, don't hesitate to give us a call or reach out by email. We're happy to learn more about what you're looking for and can help pair you with the right therapist for you.
Step 6: Prepare for Your First Session
Once you have found a therapist you feel comfortable with and have verified their credentials, it’s time to prepare for your first session.
Fill Out Client Intake Paperwork
Prior to your first session you will need to fill out intake paperwork clarifying the practice details such as fees, session duration, cancellation policies, etc. This will help you with any questions or concerns and alleviate any logistical anxiety prior to your first session so you can focus on why you are there, your well-being.
Reflect on Goals
Take some time to reflect on your therapy goals. What specific changes or improvements are you hoping to achieve? Sharing these goals with your therapist provides a starting point for the therapeutic process.
Approach your first session with an open mind and a willingness to communicate openly. Be honest about your experiences, concerns, and expectations for therapy.
Step 7: Begin Therapy
It will be helpful for you and your journey to have an understanding of what to expect during your initial sessions and how to navigate challenges.
The early sessions focus on building rapport and establishing a comfortable space for open communication. Your therapist will likely ask about your history, current challenges, and goals.
Collaborative Goal Setting
Collaborate with your therapist to set achievable and realistic goals for therapy. These goals will guide the sessions and provide a framework for tracking progress.
Feedback and Adjustments
Regularly provide feedback to your therapist about what is and isn't working for you. Therapy is a collaborative process, and adjustments may be necessary to ensure it remains beneficial. If you encounter difficulties or have concerns about the therapeutic process, discuss them with your therapist. Open communication is essential for addressing any issues that may arise.
Patience and Persistence
Understand that therapy is a gradual process, and changes may take time. Be patient with yourself and your journey, and persist even when faced with challenges.
Explore Alternatives if Necessary
If, after giving therapy a fair chance, you find that the therapeutic relationship is not a good fit, don't hesitate to explore other options. Finding the right therapist is crucial for a successful therapeutic experience and is a well-understood aspect of the process so don’t feel bad about switching therapists if you feel it is in your best interest.
At MCHW, we encourage and invite all our clients to discuss their concerns and needs with us. Our front desk staff are more than willing to help with a seamless transfer of care if you don't feel like your therapist is a great fit. We are glad to make recommendations to get you pointed in a good direction - don't hesitate to reach out!
Step 8: Remember Step 2, Commit to the Process!
Although you have accomplished a lot by getting to this point on your healing journey, staying committed to the process and working collaboratively with your therapist through "stuck" points, frustrations, and discouragement will help you heal and grow and feel better.
For therapy to be successful, you need to be as open and dedicated as possible to the process. The more you put into it, the more benefits of therapy you’ll experience. There can, and likely will be, challenges along the way, but the reward is well worth everything you put into your healing process.
In order to make your healing journey as successful as possible, here are a few key points to keep in mind during therapy:
Be Open and Vulnerable
Part of becoming mentally and emotionally healthy is working through things that you’ve probably pushed down or been afraid or unwilling to face for quite some time. The more open and vulnerable you can be, the more quickly you’ll see results and feel the changes therapy can offer.
We know that trust takes time to grow in any relationship, including with your therapist. So, if it is hard to be a complete "open book" right away, that's okay! Therapy works best when you are honest and share what is really on your mind and heart, so working up to that as your therapy process unfolds is an important goal.
Think of Your Therapist as Your Guide
Think of your therapist as a guide through your healing journey, not the keeper of all the answers. They’ll walk with you throughout the process and help you make better choices and healthier decisions and see things in a new perspective but they can not do the work for you. Your therapy is ultimately yours. You make the choices. You make the decisions. You have the answers, your therapist will just guide you to them.
Don’t Rush the Process
You can’t rush through the process of therapy, for the most effective and efficient path to healing allow for the process to work for you in the time that it naturally needs to take. It's human and understandable to want to feel better right away, and it can be frustrating when change is slow and gradual. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself and the process.
Boost Your Progress With Alternative Therapies
Working with a therapist is a significant step towards self-discovery, growth and healing, but it’s not the only thing that will contribute to your overall well-being and improved life. You must also address any imbalances in your mind-body connection as there is an intricate relationship between our mental and emotional states and our physical health. The mind-body connection suggests that our thoughts, feelings and attitudes can influence our physical well-being, and vice versa.
This is why our mission at the Minnesota Clinic for Health and Wellness is to provide many healing modalities under one roof such as: psychiatric medication management, yoga therapy, acupuncture, traditional chinese medicine, integrative nutrition, holistic occupational therapy and micro-current neurofeedback modalities. To learn more about each of these modalities click here and for a comprehensive guide to understand the mind-body connection click here.
Start the Process Today
By making the decision to start therapy and committing to the process you set the stage for a transformative and fulfilling journey. Remember that seeking support is a commendable act of self-care, and with the right therapist and mindset, therapy can be a powerful tool for enhancing your overall well-being.
We at the Minnesota Clinic for Health and Wellness would love to support you from the very beginning of your journey and be with you all the way through to a better, happier, healthier you.