Great Expectations - What to Ask Yourself at the Start of Therapy

Psychotherapy is a highly personal experience that can potentially bring forth meaningful life changes.  Assuming that you have found a therapist who is a good fit for you (elements of a good therapist-client fit may include: positive rapport, good working relationship, mutual respect, etc.), it is important to examine what your expectations are for therapy. 

For instance, are you looking for additional support as it is lacking or not sufficient in your own personal network? Do you want a safe, nonjudgmental place to share your concerns?  Are you looking to gain a different perspective on your concerns?  Do you want to work on specific coping skills, like managing stress or sleeping better?                     

You also should define for yourself what you would consider as a meaningful or successful outcome.  To help you define what therapeutic change would be meaningful for you, you might ask yourself, "If therapy worked, how might my life be different? What would I be doing?"        

Knowing what your expectations are and sharing these with your therapist allows your therapist to work with you on designing a "road map" for your therapy.  Think of setting therapy expectations or goals as selecting a destination for a trip.  Once the destination is decided upon, it is much easier to plan the route to get there than if the destination is unknown.      

Once you have an idea of what your therapy expectations are, ask yourself, am I being realistic?  Are these therapy goals achievable within the time frame that I am willing to commit to therapy?  Is my therapist open and willing to work with me on my goals?

Because therapy is such a personal experience and no form of therapy can guarantee success for all people, reflecting on your expectations can at least help you decide on an initial direction for therapy, as well as to help you assess whether things are on track and whether therapy is getting you a bit closer to your desired destination.