Have you ever wondered what a therapy session is like? Even if you haven’t, knowing about my typical therapy session is going to help you know me since therapy has taught me most of the mental health stuff I know. I hope that this description can help you see therapy as more than just a clinical place for treatment. It’s with a real person in a real place and can often feel like meeting a friend on a regular basis.
I usually drive to therapy and have to find a parking space on the surrounding streets. I keep toonies on me always for therapy parking! I briskly walk to my therapist’s office which is a three-story building full of therapists and other independent offices. My therapist actually has two offices in different parts of town so sometimes I arrive at her one office before she does and I’m locked out. I sit in the hallway and read, often seeing other therapists scoot to the bathrooms with a sheepish look on their faces. Yes, even therapists have to pee!
1:00 pm – My therapist arrives – usually out of breath – and unlocks the door to the small waiting room where I hang up my coat. She turns on the radio softly so that our voices won’t be overheard through the office door. I follow her into her office and she runs around turning on lights and moving chairs together. Sometimes there are toys on the floor because she treats a lot of kids as well.
1:05 pm – We’re sitting facing each other, me fidgeting and she with a pad of paper and a pen. She writes “Erin” at the top of the page. I either talk about how I felt leaving our previous session or I fill her in on what’s happened in my life since we last spoke.
1:10 pm– I stare at the floor, deciding on what I want to talk about. Sometimes our conversation topics come naturally and other times I have to think about it and choose the most pressing thing on my mind.
1:15-1:30 – I am swept up in our conversation. If I’m having a rough day or if we are talking about something painful I’m usually crying by this point. My therapist has a little round table beside my chair with a Kleenex box on it; I pile up the used Kleenexes in my hand. Sometimes if it’s too hard to talk while facing my therapist, I’ll sit near her chair but face the wall because I find it easiest to access memories if I’m not looking at anyone. Also, have you ever cried while someone watches you intently? It’s really fucking awkward! My therapist was always on my case about letting my “tears flow” until we came up with this facing-the-wall solution.
1:30- 1:40 – I start watching the clock because I know the half-way point of the session has passed. Sometimes I start to stress about how I’m going to deal with my emotions once I have to go home.
1:50 – We wrap up the session and sometimes talk together about how I’m going to deal with my emotions once I leave. It can be hard to get my feelings all stirred up and then just have to go. This is a problem we discuss a lot in therapy. I’m bad at even minor good-byes when I’m feeling shitty.
1:55 – Depending on how hard the session was I either go to the bathroom and check on my mascara situation (and maybe just hide sometimes) or just leave the building and go out to my car. Sometimes I feel really well when I leave and go have to Starbucks to celebrate. :)
So that’s my typical session. Sometimes I feel really confident while I’m there and talk about good things in my life and other times my therapist and I will have a heated discussion. Sometimes I leave feeling really angry or really sad or really stirred up about something and when that happens it’s usually because we triggered emotions from my past. I’ve been in therapy for almost ten years (doesn’t that sound like forever?! it goes by faster than you’d think, though ) and I’m still learning how to ride the highs and lows of the therapeutic process. It’s a ton of work but it’s really worth it.
It’s great once you get past the point of just being acquaintances with your therapist and feel that you have a friend in him or her. That said, it’s unlike any relationship you’ll ever have because it’s one-sided and there are rules in terms of confidentiality and what therapists can or can’t do. The most rewarding part of therapy for me is knowing that my therapist is always going to have my back. I can trust her and I don’t trust easily. It’s a good feeling.