Teal Swan said, “We do not fear the unknown. We fear what we project into the unknown.” It can be intimidating walking into a complete stranger’s office for the first time, not knowing what to expect and also being expected to share the most personal and intimate details of your life.

On the flip side, some assume they know everything about therapy and are quite surprised when receiving treatment. Since my early days as a therapist, I always ask my clients a series of questions related to their understanding and expectations of therapy. I also inquire about previous therapy experiences to get a clear understanding of any preconceived notations they may have. I am often amazed at what I hear.

The thing is, even though therapy is not as stigmatized as it once was, it is not still talked about in most social circles. And so many people have the wrong idea about it. If you’ve been considering seeking help from a mental health professional, you likely have questions as well.

With that in mind, here is what no one tells you about therapy or counseling – but should!

It’s Not Like TV

Pop-culture would have you believe the minute you step into a therapist office, your therapist will have you looking at Rorschach tests and talking about your dreams and answering questions about your mother and your relationship with your father. Many think the entire session is devoted to discussing your childhood and the affect your parents have had in your life.

While many therapists will want to get a history of your background to uncover specific behavioral patterns and emotional memories that have helped formulate your personality traits, the idea of therapy is not to blame your parents for all of your current troubles.

On the contrary, the most effective therapeutic experiences are those that can help the client achieve accountability and responsibility for the negative behaviors that are contributing to the negative emotions. While it is important to recognize this is not meant to blame the person and indicate everything is their fault, it’s more beneficial to realize the only thing we have control over is ourselves and our reaction to the world around us. This is why blaming others (which we have no control over) is of no benefit or use it all.

It’s Not A Quick Fix

Though the end goal of therapy is to create better habits and behaviors and change negative thought patterns contributing to negative emotions, the process of getting there will sometimes be uncomfortable. It is unrealistic to expect you will feel better immediately. Therapy takes time and commitment.

I often tell clients to expect things to get a little worse before they get better. This is typically due to increased awareness. Once we start to realize how our own negative behavior is contributing to our emotions, and we still continue to engage in said negative behaviors, things can get frustrating. However, the good news is once the awareness is increased, it becomes much easier to change negative thought patterns and behaviors. This is when change really occurs and when one’s quality of life really improves.

You Have to Want to Change

You can seek advice from a personal trainer who may give you the best tools to get fit and healthy. But if you don’t take their advice and you don’t do the work, you won’t see the results. You can read all about the healthiest diet to lose weight, but if you don’t follow the rules, you won’t see any change. You can read all the self-help books that you want, but if you don’t apply the tools and skills conveyed, nothing will change.

The same is true for therapy. Your therapist will be gentle and kind and go with a pace that feels comfortable for you, but ultimately you have to want to get better. It takes work to get there. And the way people get better is to face their own behaviors, recognize the patterns, and make healthier choices. Therapy isn’t magic, but it can provide you with the tools for lasting change.


James Killian, LPC is a counselor in New Haven, CT and is the Principal Therapist & Owner at Arcadian Counseling. If you or someone you know has been considering therapy but have been nervous to take the first step, we get it. It can be intimidating.  Contact us today and we’ll make it a smooth process!