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How To Prepare For Therapy

People come to therapy for various reasons:

Sometimes they want a diagnosis: ‘whats wrong with me?’ they ask.

There may be reasons for wanting a diagnosis, such as: to qualify for services,
for a court case, for an insurance claim, or for a better understanding of their

Sometimes they just want to talk and be heard because:

a) ‘no-one listens to me,’

b) giving up any control is too scary, or

c) they are terrified of touching
anything below the surface.

Sometimes they just want to feel better, but they don’t know what to do.
Learning ways to overcome the current discomfort may be unimaginable,
but they are seeking some sort of relief.

Sometimes they’ve been in therapy before, and realize they need more help,
or perhaps the previous therapy didn’t meet their hoped for outcomes. They
may or may not know what would suit their current needs.

Sometimes, they come to therapy because their relationships aren’t working well,
or they aren’t able to have relationships, or to have lasting relationships. They may
or may not understand why they have these difficulties, and again, just want something
of a better quality.

Even others come because they have:

-performance issues,
-self esteem issues,
-grief and loss,
-anger issues,
-injuries (including brain injuries) or health issues,
-traumatic experiences /memories that haunt them,
-fears, obsessions, addictions,
-serious mental health disorders,
-family concerns, such as parenting, infidelity, caregiver issues.

This short list provides a just few possible motivations for coming to therapy,

Getting the most out of therapy is enhanced with a few preparation steps.

Step 1:

Think about what it is that’s bothering you most.
See if you can write it down:
What are the things you don’t like or want to change
What would your ideal life look like, and what needs to change to make that happen?

Sometimes we think if the people around us change, we will  be ok,
but we cant change others; we can only change ourselves.
Sometimes we set goals, but we do not complete them.
Sometimes we are haunted by deep emotions, or symptoms that overwhelm us, and
we don’t know how to self soothe. Sometimes we sabotage ourselves.
Sometimes theres no major problems, but we just aren’t happy.

Having an idea of the changes we would like can help to direct our treatment,
by helping us set realistic goals.

Step 2:

When seeking a therapist to work with the following factors may be important:

-gender, age, cultural or religious beliefs
-location of therapist’s office, therapist’s availability – is there a waitlist,
-approaches to therapy, and whether they treat the concerns you are experiencing,
-whether you want individual, family or group therapy
-what are the costs, length of sessions, and what times work for you
-whether your therapy/therapist will  be covered by your health plan-coverage is usually determined in advance of an appointment
-what is the policy for missed appointments – generally there is a late cancelation fee
-research on the internet can help you a) find therapists in your area that deals with your
concerns, and b) can help re: educating yourself on different therapies, and what you might
feel comfortable with.

Step 3

Make a list of medications, what you liked or found helpful if you had previous counselling,
and what your goals are (some people find it difficult to determine goals, but the therapist
can help you to formulate a general plan). For the therapist, having a sense of the direction
you would like to go in can enhance their ability to support you in reaching your goals.

Overall, a bit of soul searching regarding changes you want to make, and what you are looking for in a therapist, in addition to being adequately prepared for your first appointment can help you make a great first step towards your healing or self improvement goals.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Dr Barbara Harris, PhD, MSW, RSW

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Dr. Barbara now offers Skype sessions for EMDR Intensives, Consultations and Trauma Counselling.

Certified EMDR Therapist
EMDR Consultant in Training

#200-100 Park Royal South
West Vancouver, BC
V7T 1A2

Phone: 604-921-6924 Fax: 1-877-688-9552
Email: drbarbaraharris@hotmail.com
website: drbarbaraharris.com


Serving the whole Lower Mainland, including, Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Tri-cities and Fraser Valley.

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