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What to expect in therapy

Many people find the idea of coming to therapy or counselling a daunting proposition. Not only might they be opening themselves up for the very first time, they'll be opening up to a complete stranger.

A step into the unknown

Our therapists understand that the pain people feel is more often than not the result of an unfortunate set of life experiences, or some other factor beyond their control, and is certainly not due to any ‘fault’ in that person for which they might be ‘judged’.

Once they’ve taken the first tentative step, people often discover that the knowledge that the therapist is in fact a complete stranger, has a liberating effect–knowing that what goes on during a session will remain always between you and your therapist, so that there’s no chance of anyone in your everyday life hearing anything about it.

Indeed, complete confidence and trust is essential to the very process of therapy, and is a principle to which our therapists are ethically and professionally bound.

The first session: helping you decide

While each therapist at The House brings a personal working style to the therapy session, there are some common aspects you’re likely to experience as you start out.

Confidence and trust is essential to the very process of therapy

The very first session is more of a consultation to help you decide if therapy could be helpful for you and, importantly, if this particular therapist is someone you can work with. The first session does not commit you to continuing with therapy, or to working with this particular therapist. There are plenty of other therapists in the partnership whose style and experience might be better suited to you, and so this is a time for you to decide if you’re going to feel comfortable, confident, and motivated in working with this person.

Of course it’s a two way process, and a time also for your therapist to decide whether they are a good match for you. Indeed, occasionally a therapist may recommend another therapist in the practice who they think might better suit your needs.

Agreeing the direction of therapy

It’s unfortunate that the word ‘assessment’ carries connotations of evaluation or judgement. That’s not what we mean by it at all. Instead the assessment process, which begins during the first session, is the process through which you and your therapist can begin to form a collaborative strategy for you to reach your goals in therapy — a strategy that you both agree is realistic and achievable.

Modern forms of therapy tend to be a lot more interactive

Setting goals for therapy is important. Your therapist is likely to ask you a lot of questions during the first session — about what you want to get out of therapy, about the particular concerns you want to deal with, about how you would like your life to be once you achieve what you set out to in therapy — along with many others. Equally, they will want to hear about aspects of your life that are going well for you, and to identify the abilities and strengths that have given you the resilience to carry on although it may have been very hard at times.

Soon you will both share a common understanding of your current difficulties, and both have a clear idea of where therapy should be heading. That combined with a reliable appraisal of the propensities that will help you achieve your goals in therapy, will allow you to embark on the process of therapy itself with a sense of clarity and direction.

Not about couches

At The House Partnership you certainly won’t be asked to lie on a couch and free associate while your therapist sits there mutely, dropping in just the occasional remark. That’s more the province of classical psychoanalysis–now rapidly fading from fashion–which often expects therapy to extend into years, rather than weeks or months.

Nor is our therapy about delving into your unconscious, and waiting for a fresh insight simply to bubble up. Instead, the insights you may experience during therapy at The House will be the result of a far more active and collaborative process.

Indeed, modern forms of therapy tend to be a lot more interactive and to entail other activities during therapy than just talking about your particular issue. These activities may include role-playing during the session, or exercises to try out at home or out in the real world. This allows you to try out some of the new skills you’ve been learning in therapy — skills related to methods of relaxation or mindfulness, or different ways of communicating with others, or a paper-based exercise designed to consolidate learning.

Ending therapy

It might sound odd in this short introduction, to already be talking about ending therapy, but it’s important to understand that, unlike in movies where the protagonist may be ‘in therapy’ almost as a lifestyle choice, at The House Partnership therapy always has an ending in mind, even as it starts out. We don’t think people should be expected to enter into an open-ended arrangement where sessions meander towards no particular goal. Rather that it should be time-limited and focused on a clear outcome.

Whether ‘time-limited’ means six weeks or six months clearly depends on the particular set of difficulties you’re facing, but you certainly are not entering into an open-ended long term contract.

That said, an ending does not have to be absolute and it can be reassuring to know that you can always come back to see your therapist for an occasional progress review or when you feel you need a boost after a particular set-back. You can even come back for another short course of therapy to help consolidate a new positive perspective or commitment.