At the outset of therapy, a good therapist will work collaboratively with you to formulate a treatment plan. All therapists are required to make a treatment plan within the first three sessions, and to update it regularly. Think of your treatment plan as a roadmap with identified benchmarks along the way, guiding the therapy process.
You and your therapist should identify from the start:
- The problem(s) that are getting in the way of your life (moods, behavior patterns, relationship issues, distressing circumstances)
- Clear, specific goals related to those problems (Ask yourself to complete this sentence: “I’ll know I’m ready to be done with therapy or that it’s been successful when…”)
- The therapeutic strategies /interventions your therapist plans on using to help you reach said goals (This one is your therapist’s responsibility.)
Regarding this last bullet point; it’s important for you to know that your therapist has been trained to use a number of therapeutic models as roadmaps for themselves to guide the therapeutic work they do. Many of them are empirically sound (meaning they’ve been well-researched, and proven to be effective methods of treatment). Some common therapy models used by therapists include, but aren’t limited to: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Narrative Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy, Emotion-Focused Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, and Systemic-Based Therapies (based on family systems theory). I encourage you to ask your therapist about the therapeutic models he or she uses, and to research them on your own. You can also learn more by staying tuned for another series of blogs – one devoted to each of these modalities.
I hope that you’ve found this explanation of what therapy is (and isn’t) helpful to you in understanding what to expect from therapy. I want to encourage you that therapy really can be powerfully helpful for people in their lives. I’ve witnessed the good that can come from it, and I want others to experience it as well. If you have any further questions that I was unable to address, do not hesitate to ask a therapist. A good therapist is open and transparent, truly cares about how you’re feeling, and wants your experience in therapy to be a positive one.