First Session Therapy: I Know I Need Therapy But When Do I Begin?

Color Figure Dancing

So you’ve decided that you need therapy. The next question to ask is “when should I begin?”

The fact that we need therapy does not always mean that now is always the right time. 

I like to share this with my clients: therapy is only 50 minutes per week. That’s a very short time to solve anything.  For therapy to be effective, it is important that we are not only able to commit ourselves to working in the therapy room but to also engage with what we have learnt about ourselves in the week before we bring it back to therapy again. It is in the dance of taking our issues into the room, living it out in our lives and bringing newfound meanings, ideas and questions back into the room that often contributes to seeing quicker changes in clients’ lives. Are they ready to take part in this dance? 

For therapy to work, you have to do the work between sessions to really solidify and process everything you have learnt within sessions.

Of course, there are many other factors involved that contributes to our readiness for therapy. Finding the right fit with your therapist is one of them (more can be read here). Yet, it is our capacity to commit to working on ourselves on our own and with the help of others that is often overlooked. Below are three areas to consider to help you decide if you are ready for therapy:

Be willing to work on yourself

I’ve worked with many clients who have been brought into therapy by others. Though they have issues that needs to be addressed, they may not often be ready for it now. It may also be the case that they know they have issues to work on themselves but they are not ready yet. 

The most fundamental question to check our readiness is “am I open to committing to doing things differently now?” If the answer is “ no, I’m not”, then the time is not ripe. It is ok to wait till you are ready. 

Having the time and energy to work on yourself 

Change takes time. Sometimes, the difficult emotions that we are working on (anxiety, guilt, worry, angst, grief etc) intensifies after sessions. This may not mean therapy is not working. It could mean that emotions underlying our issues are surfacing and it requires time to process them. 

It is important to consider how much time you can commit to working on yourself each week. Aside from considering the frequency of therapy (weekly, biweekly, multiple sessions in one week or as-needed sessions), one should consider their capacity to engage with themselves outside of therapy. Are there other priorities in life (e.g. work, family, studies, physical health etc) that will come in the way of working on myself outside of therapy?

Evaluate financial commitment to therapy 

Let’s face it. Therapy can be expensive. You’ll want to consider the treatment costs and whether it’s sustainable financially. Individual therapy sessions are not typically impactful in and of themselves. Therapy is a cumulative process, and we can’t predict when growth will come. It is important to weigh the costs of therapy in the context of an ongoing process instead of the cost of a single session. Am I ready to pay for therapy or would the money be more wisely spent on other areas of my life? 

In the event that therapy does not fit your budget at the moment, there are lower costs options to consider. First, check if your insurance covers mental health services. You can also ask your therapist for sliding scale, discounted rates or shorter sessions options. Alternatively, check if your company offers Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). Read up more here on what to do when therapy is not financially possible. 

Therapy can be incredibly useful for lots of things including depression, anxiety, phobia, grief, trauma etc. It can also lead us into becoming better people even if we do not have serious issues to cope with. Yet, therapy is not helpful when we are not ready to do the work ourselves. At Encompassing Therapy and Counselling, we believe in supporting our clients to help them discern whether they are ready for therapy. Book a First Session Therapy with us today to discuss if you are ready for therapy. 

About the Author

Hi, I'm Mag: a UKCP-accredited counselling psychologist and founder of Singapore’s first ever existential practice. My care philosophy is not to diagnose, label, or categorise but rather to work with the individual in front of me in the here and now.

My clinical credentials certainly play a significant role in defining my professional identity. But to foster a deeper connection and authenticity, I invite you to discover my other “Selves”, the various facets of who I am.

Learn more about me here

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Existential Therapy helps you to discover you do not need to choose between your freedom and relationship with others. Both are possible at any one point.

The existential approach to psychotherapy and counselling is about the freedom to discover yourself and believe that you’re the expert of your own life. It can help you answer some of life’s biggest questions.

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