Dear New Client,
Thank you for beginning this journey. No matter what the response has been from your immediate friends, families, or inner critic, I believe you are making a good decision. Therapy is an inviting place where every single part of you is welcome, even the parts that are uncomfortable to share. As a therapist, I am honored that you chose this process as your vehicle to healing.
If this is your first time in therapy, welcome. My guess is that getting started can be pretty scary — to talk to someone you do not know about things that make you uncomfortable, sad, angry, overjoyed, or embarrassed — but I would like to reassure you that this process is here to help you grow. There are certain elements necessary in therapy in order to maintain a space of positivity, growth, and healing. Yet, you are not responsible for maintaining those elements. That is the job of the therapist — my job. It is imperative that I maintain a judgment-free space, a space that is challenging but comforting, and a process that is enlightening as well as retrospective. Be open with your therapist about your experience as it unfolds. And if it is not the experience you were hoping to have, I hope you advocate for yourself and seek support elsewhere if no remedy is made.
For those who have been to therapy before and are starting again, welcome back. Whether you’re trying a new therapist after a not-so-good counseling experience, or whether you’re returning because previous experiences have helped you foster a sense of trust in therapy and its benefits, you are welcome here. I am glad that you have returned to therapy to continue your personal growth. I hope that your time in therapy will be as positive as previous therapeutic journeys, or that it will allow new growth that was stifled by a prior unhelpful experience. Returning to therapy after some time will likely mean revisiting work that you did before and figuring out together with your therapist what your goals are now. It will be helpful to share with your new therapist about your past experiences, so that together you can foster a trusting and beneficial relationship.
Therapy will be difficult sometimes and at others the most enjoyable part of your week. As therapists, we welcome these opposing states and embrace them as a sign of good work being done on your behalf. We ask that you bring your authentic and whole self to each session. We encourage you to allow yourself to experience any emotion or thought freely, for example crying without needing to apologize and voicing your feelings with confidence. If you are not quite there yet, we hope you will allow us to help you reach that point. It is our genuine hope that every client that comes to our office, journeys along their therapeutic path with a renewed sense of understanding and self-appreciation.
This post was written by Michelle Collins, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Emily Cook Therapy in Bethesda, MD. She wrote this letter after talking with a friend about a frustrating experience he had in therapy recently. She hopes this letter strengthens commitment to therapy in already-invested clients and fosters curiosity and desire to participate in those who are still wondering about therapy.