What is therapy like?


Many people are scared to start therapy, they imagine lying on a couch telling some old man in tweed about their deepest, darkest secrets. But it’s really not like that, not anymore. Finding the right therapist is extremely important; you’re building a relationship with that person so you need a good connection.


I have had various positive and negative experiences with therapists, psychologists and counselors. My first experience was not a positive one and I wasn’t aware enough that I could just go to another therapist. You have to interview the therapist – remember it’s your health and your money; you have to feel comfortable with the therapist.


The first session is pretty simple; you’re not going to delve right into your issues. They will probably get you to fill out some paper work and ask questions about why you are there, how you’re feeling lately, etc.


A few summers ago, I saw a counselor who I still really like even though she couldn’t treat me. We will call her Ruth, she is a trained counselor and works for a community clinic (so it was covered under MSI). Our first session began with her getting some history and we had a chat about my concerns. I sat in a comfortable chair and it was very relaxing. Each session we spoke a bit more and worked slowly through things. Although, her expertise didn’t include eating disorders, I still had a good experience. Sometimes, you will find that your therapist/counselor can’t treat you anymore and that doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you or they don’t like you, they are just looking out for your best interests.


My next experience was very different, I went to a residential treatment centre that specializes in eating disorders so the counselors there had a good back ground in what I was going through. I spoke with them over the phone and did an intake interview first so by the time I got there, we had established a framework already. My first session was a little uncomfortable, I was still unconvinced that I needed treatment, but tried to be present. I remember fidgeting in my chair and being very uncomfortable about being open about my feelings. Although I didn’t say at the house very long, I continued seeing the staff there and continued treatment for over a year. I can honestly say that I would not be alive without them.


Therapy is different for everyone. I have mostly done Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and a bit of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), I have found both beneficial. CBT is probably the most common and ACT is very helpful for treatment of depression and related disorders. CBT works on changing your behaviour and therefore changing your negative/disordered thoughts into more positive, productive ones. ACT is basically what it sounds like – accept your personal situation and commit to change. It works with mindfulness and values (what’s important to you) and action. Stephen Hayes’ popular book “Get Out of Your Mind and into Your Life” is based on ACT. I haven’t read it but I’ve done some of the worksheets from it and it’s been helpful.


Therapy is scary because change is scary, but it is immensely rewarding. I have gotten to know myself so much in the past two years and while I still have a lot of work to do, I know have solid building blocks to live a healthy and free life. You don’t have to have a diagnosed disorder to go to therapy, even if you are feeling stressed about school or relationships or are dealing with body image or low self-esteem, therapy can be very helpful. An impartial third party who is looking out for you and your health is an amazing resource to have. There are many options for finding a counselor or therapist – you can talk to your family doctor, campus centre, or look at the Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia Website (http://www.apns.ca) for more information.


There is always hope for recovery, and you don’t have to hit rock bottom to get help.