Understanding the timeline of therapy

Mental wellbeing and therapy – why is it important?

Our mental wellbeing is an important part of our lives since it impacts every of its aspects including our thoughts, actions, physical health, and interactions with others but also with ourselves. Therefore, looking after our mental wellbeing can be highly beneficial in terms of better understanding and nurturing ourselves, maintaining balance as well as building resilience.

One of the ways to start your journey to a better mental wellbeing is getting into therapy. There are different types of therapy, but what they all have in common is working with a trained therapist who provides a confidential non-judgmental space where clients are able to freely express their emotions and thoughts.

The importance of understanding the therapy timeline

Starting therapy may seem intimidating at first for us all. We are all unique individuals with unique problems within varying contexts and circumstances. Each person’s therapeutic journey is different, however, understanding the general stages and timeline of therapy is important to get the most out of the sessions, to learn more about what this journey entails and generally to get more comfortable and at ease with the process.

Starting with Therapy

Initial Consultation

Regardless of the type of therapy you have chosen, usually therapists offer an initial consultation as a form of introductory and assessment session for yourself and your therapist to meet, discuss what brings you to therapy and what you would like to focus on while giving you space to ask questions. Since the first session, it is important to work on building trust between yourself and your therapist through establishing the therapeutic alliance which essentially is the relationship or agreement you establish with your therapist for the duration of therapy.

Early Sessions

Setting Goals and Expectations

The first few sessions will most likely be dedicated to laying the foundation for the therapeutic work ahead through setting goals and expectations of your journey in collaboration with your therapist. This is called the therapeutic agreement. Perhaps you may already have an idea about what you would like to achieve, but if you are unsure do not worry – your therapist can help you with that.

Establishing Trust and Rapport

The therapeutic relationship you are building with your therapist is the foundation for a successful therapy. Importantly, during this stage your therapist will want to get to know you better and learn more about yourself to be better placed to support you and to strengthen your therapeutic alliance through building trust and a sense of safety.

Identifying Issues and Challenges

Throughout the whole process, feedback, openness, and honesty is key. You may want to reflect after each session in terms of how it made you feel, whether there was something either helpful or unhelpful and raising any issues or challenges that you find along that journey with your therapist during the next session.

Middle Phase of Therapy

Deepening Understanding and Insight

By this stage your therapist now knows you better and you perhaps started working through the agreed plan and your goals. This stage of therapy may be the more complex one as you dive deeper into the process. It is important to note that people may get emotional during therapy and sometimes there may be difficult topics where difficult feelings and emotions arise, but that is okay and part of the process. Your therapist is there to help you. Again, depending on the type of therapy you are going through, your therapist may also conduct re-assessments at various points of the process to better support you when assessing progress.

Implementing Strategies and Interventions

At this point, depending on your unique therapy goals, you might be noticing that your perspective is shifting as you learn more about yourself, the difficulties you may be facing, your experiences as well as the people around you in your life. This includes re-assessing your problems, other people’s motives, reframing past experiences and belief systems. Your therapist will provide you with new useful strategies and tools for you to be able to implement these gradually. At any point, in case there is anything which is not working for you, do share this with your therapist. Therapy is not a static process, it is fluid and your needs may change.

Finishing Therapy and Maintenance

Reviewing Progress and Developing Long-Term Coping Strategies

This will depend on whether you are in short-term or long-term therapy, e.g. whether there are limited therapy sessions or it is open-ended. Regardless, this is a very important stage of your journey. You may discuss your goals that you’ve set and whether these have been achieved, your therapist may conduct a final assessment to measure progress and, importantly, take you through the already established strategies and tools to help you better navigate everyday situations and issues.

When to Consider Returning or Ending Therapy

In an ideal world, every person in therapy should generally aim for an ending.

However, this is not always the case. Some people who have completed a course of therapy may feel that they perhaps addressed the initial problem and feel better equipped to handle difficult situations using the strategies and tools they have gained. On the other hand, some clients remain with questions and the need to attend more sessions, and again, that is okay. But most importantly, whenever you experience difficulties and the need to come back you should always have the option to rejoin the process.

In case you are still wondering whether therapy is worth it, what are some of the types of therapies out there or which one may be the best suited for you take a look at our previous articles on What Kind of Therapy Do I Need? and Is Therapy Worth it?

Written & Reviewed by the Us Therapy Team, in 2024