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When You Want to Go to Therapy but Don’t Know Where to Start

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So often I hear people say, “I’d love to go to therapy but I wouldn’t even know where to start!”

My advice, as a therapist, is simple: just begin.

There’s no perfect way to tell your story — it’s complicated because you’re a real person who has lived for 20, 30, 40, etc years and has had a lot happen to make you who you are today. Starting anywhere you feel comfortable is perfectly fine. I often ask clients, “Do you know what you’d like to talk about or would you like me to ask you some questions to get going?” It’s common for people to show up and know they need help, but just not know exactly how to express their needs. It’s my job to guide you and give you a little direction. Oftentimes, there will be a “final straw” that brings someone to therapy such as a breakup, loss of a job or a major fight with their significant other. In these cases, starting with what happened today and working backward can feel helpful. If there is no “urgent need” though, maybe starting with how you’ve been feeling about life recently would give you a place to begin. In fact, starting counseling when you’re not in crisis can be wonderful because you have the mental space to start developing good coping strategies for when you do face difficulties.

Remembering that therapy (like most things in life!) is a process and not a race is important. Everything doesn’t need to come out in the first session. As counselors, we are also really good at picking out what’s important and asking you clarifying questions to assist us in getting the information we need to best help you, so don’t worry about feeling scattered — we can put it all together.

I remember wanting to try out minimalism last year and just standing there, staring at all my stuff, wondering where to even start because there was so much. After several weeks of doing nothing, I realized I was no closer to my goal of getting rid of things I don’t need because I was frozen by fear of not starting the “right” way. Finally, I looked at the chaotic mess of books on my shelf and started making piles of what to keep and what to give away. I felt so accomplished after clearing those books away that it gave me the momentum I needed to move on to my closet and then the kitchen, etc.

The moral of this story is that to get unstuck, I just needed to begin somewhere, anywhere.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

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Photo by Nicolas Cool on Unsplash

Originally published: April 18, 2018
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