Why it’s no scarier than having a conversation. How does psychology work?

Psychology is fundamentally a ‘talk’ therapy that allows you to open up and understand the complex nature of your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in a safe and supportive environment. A psychologist can help you to better understand what you are thinking, how you are feeling and how these complex processes may impact on your decisions and behaviours. Then you can work together to develop realistic goals and effective ways to meet these.

When you first start therapy it requires a lot of honesty and self-disclosure of some very personal topics to someone who you don’t know. This can be a difficult first step because you are unsure of who you are talking to, if you might be exposed, where your information is going to end up and if this is really going to make a difference. These are all completely normal and valid concerns that many people think about before their first consultation.

The first meeting is all about you presenting your particular questions, concerns or situation. It means that you will do the majority of the talking. At the end of the session you might get some homework to do before the next session or some strategies to take home and try. Homework can be simple exercises that you discuss with the psychologist that help you to observe or reflect on your thoughts and feelings, or it might be implementing a new habit, or trying a new activity, or using some relaxation strategies.

The next session, is often scheduled for the next week but fortnightly or monthly sessions can be implemented as well. It is best to look at your particular situation and decide what level of support is going to be the most helpful for you. The next session will start with reviewing how the last week went, any tasks that were set, progress that was made and then specific goals and topics will be set to discuss and work on through the session. It is likely that at the end more homework or tasks will be set to work on for the coming period of time before the next session.

While homework might sound like something you left behind in school, these tasks can be some of the most fundamental aspects of making progress throughout therapy. You want to live your life to your fullest potential and that doesn’t just happen once a week at the psychology session, that happens every day. So, taking on the advice of the psychologist and completing the agreed upon tasks is a big part of the process. While a psychologist can help you make mental breakthroughs, help and support you to change your thinking and influence your behaviour, you have to expect to make an effort during your own time if you want to embrace real change.

Depending on the level of support that you want and need for your situation, therapy may be only a few sessions or it might be several sessions. On average most people attend between 10-14 sessions. The great thing is that you can always schedule in more sessions if you need or refresher consults at a later date if you get stuck and need some additional support.

One of the best things about talk therapy, is that you develop knowledge and understanding of yourself. You learn how to effectively manage situations better in the future, particularly challenges that arise. You can stop yourself falling into the same patterns that you’ve developed in the past and you can implement more effective coping mechanisms. It means that you can learn skills to live your life more effectively than you were before. And that is what we at Stepforth are all about!

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