What is therapy?

Creating a therapeutic alliance

In order for therapy to be successful, clients need to feel safe with their therapist. The feeling of safety can be described as feeling at ease, calm, respected, knowing that you are going to be taken care of, listened to, heard and validated. Feeling safe can be described as confiding in a trusted friend or family member, knowing they will keep your secret safe. 

Limits of Confidentiality

Limits of confidentiality mean that while most things you tell your therapist are confidential, there are some exceptions. The limits of confidentiality is a legal requirement and is in place to keep you, the client, safe. Here are some examples: if you tell your therapist about child, elder and/or dependent adult abuse or that you have a plan to harm yourself or others, your therapist is legally required to break confidentiality and make an appropriate report. You can read more about this here

Define the problem

Once a safe container has been established, the next thing will be to learn about what you want to change or improve in your life. Examples could include feeling more confident and less nervous in social situations, feeling more in control or being a better communicator. This process can be an open dialogue between therapist and client, where the therapist asks a series of thought provoking questions, such as “what bothers you about this?” or” what would you like to be different?” The job of the therapist is to help you identify issues, clarify and synthesize the problems. 

Creating a plan

After you and your therapist have determined what needs to be worked on, a plan or set of goals can be created. The process of creating this plan should be collaborative and completely tailored to you. Generally a therapist will ask questions about a client’s history, childhood, family, culture, work and romantic relationships.  While these questions can feel probing, learning this information allows a therapist to better understand a client. 

Doing the work

The working stage in therapy is the time when change can happen. This stage can include the therapist offering solutions, ideas, facilitating conversations to help you make a meaningful change in your life. Change will be different for everyone. For some, it will be very concrete, such as a decrease in anxiety and increase in confidence. For others, change can look like greater self acceptance and feeling less overwhelmed by life transitions, getting along better with others or being better able to cope with big emotions. 

When will I feel better?

When you first begin therapy, it can feel unclear as to when you can expect to feel better. In general, your therapist should give you an idea of how long you can expect it will take during the plan creation stage. Measuring progress and getting to a point where you start to feel better needs to be an ongoing dialogue. For some, therapy can be brief. For instance, perhaps you are struggling with work related stress: perhaps you get overwhelmed when trying to prioritize tasks. In this case your therapist can target these specific problems and help you to create solutions. You might be able to create viable solutions in just a few sessions. On the other hand, some clients seek  therapy to process past trauma– this can take longer such as several months to a year due to the nature and depth of the issues you and your therapist decide to work on. 

What if I don’t like my therapist or I’m not getting better?

If you find that you’re not liking your therapist – speak up! Therapists are here to serve you and contrary to popular belief, we can’t read your mind. (Although we definitely can pick up vibes). Therapists will do their best to determine if a client is getting better or getting worse, but the best is your feedback. Make sure to let your therapist know if you don’t like something they said or if you feel you want to work with someone who has a different approach. 


You may come to a point in your therapy where you feel that it’s time to end treatment. This may look like taking a break from therapy, where you intend to come back later, or maybe decrease the frequency with which you see your therapist. Most therapists have an open door policy, where we welcome a client to come back any time they wish for additional sessions. In the case that you are stopping treatment in therapy completely, generally your therapist will invite you to reflect upon your progress, your gains and help you to reflect how therapy has been helpful for you to heal and grow. 

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