Whether you’ve never been in therapy before or you’re just starting up with a new provider, that first initial session together can be nerve-wracking. As someone who has been in therapy before, I know the anxious thoughts well: “What are they going to ask?” “Will it be awkward?” “What if they don’t like me?” “What if I don’t like them?” “Are they going to think my problems are dumb?” “How am I supposed to tell so many personal details to someone I’ve never met before?”
Seeing a new therapist is definitely at least a little scary for everyone. I think we all go into therapy sessions with certain expectations, positive or negative, so the thought that our expectations may or may not be accurate is a little daunting.
While I can’t guarantee you and your new therapist will be a good fit, or that therapy will feel natural right from the get-go, or that you’ll be ready for every question your therapist asks you, I can at least lay out some basics so you feel a little more prepared than you might be otherwise.
1. Consider your intentions.
Most likely your new therapist will ask you some questions about why you decided to seek out therapy. They’ll want to know if there was something that happened in your life that motivated you to schedule with them, or if there are certain symptoms or concerns you’re hoping to address in your work together. As you get ready to meet your new therapist for the first time, ask yourself what your intentions are for starting therapy. What are you hoping to get out of the experience? What are you hoping to accomplish? Are there certain goals you’re hoping to reach? All of those questions are great paths toward making your efforts in therapy purposeful and will also be helpful as your therapist is trying to get an idea of how they can help you best.
2. Decide what’s most important.
The average therapy session lasts about 45-55 minutes, so there’s only so much ground you can cover in your first session. Decide what the top 1-3 topics you want your therapist to know about are before you get to the appointment, so you aren’t rushed to remember what you wanted to talk about in the last five minutes. Your therapist will only know as much as you tell them, so make sure you know what you want to prioritize from the beginning!
3. Prepare for the logistics.
Your first appointment with a therapist usually includes quite a few logistical items. Depending on how much your therapist or their office asks of you before your appointment, you may have to take some time during your first session to cover things like billing and payment, schedule preferences, or additional forms to sign. Many therapists also take some time in their first meetings with clients to cover some big topics from their consent paperwork like confidentiality and cancellation policies. Most of the time, therapists will let you look over their policies ahead of time, so it can be a good idea to review that before your appointment, so you know what to expect. If you take any medications, you may want to write down the names and dosages of what you’re prescribed, as well as the name and contact information for who prescribes them. Also, make sure to bring your insurance cards and/or methods of payment so your therapist can make sure they have everything accurately in your file.
4. Take a moment to settle.
Starting therapy is both exciting and scary, so the prospect of getting ready for your first appointment might bring up a lot of emotions for you. That’s totally normal! It can be a good idea to take a few minutes before your appointment starts to breathe some deep breaths, close your eyes, and bring yourself into the present moment. If your adrenaline is pumping, don’t be afraid to do a few jumping jacks, stretch out your muscles, or belt out your favorite tune. If you’re not feeling very successful at calming your nerves, don’t worry about it. Therapists are trained to help with and work through high stress, so we’re here for you, even if it’s only your first time seeing us!
5. Remember that therapy is about YOU.
At the end of the day, it’s not your job to make your therapist like you. If you don’t feel comfortable with your therapist, if they end up having a different style than you expected, or if you just don’t vibe with them for whatever reason, that’s okay! You have a right to advocate for yourself and your own therapeutic needs, because therapy is about you. Let your therapist know if there’s something you’re wondering if they could change for you or something that they could do to make you more comfortable. And if you end up deciding a certain therapist isn’t for you, you can always try out someone new! We know that our styles of therapy aren’t for everyone, but we always try to accommodate where we can. Let us know how we can serve you best!
If you’re thinking about trying therapy, whether for the first time or the billionth, EVOLVEwithin would love to help. Give us a call and let us know what we can do for you!
Article contribution by Tabitha Schroeder, MS, MFT-IT
What are they?
The Sunday Scaries are pretty universal to the human experience. Occurring exclusively on the last day of the weekend or the day before you have to return to work after some time off, the Sunday Scaries consist of that pit-in-your-stomach, dread-filled, anxiety-inducing knowledge that the weekend is over and another work week is about to begin again.
The term basically refers to that sense of trepidation you feel at having to face another week from the beginning all over again. Not only do the Sunday Scaries give you anxiety, but they give you anxiety so strong that you can’t even enjoy what little weekend you have left. Typically, you end up unable to relax at all after the Sunday Scaries hit and just sit staring at the clock, ruing every wasted, passing hour.
Why do they happen?
Let me paint a picture for you: Imagine it’s Sunday afternoon. You just had a great weekend filled with relaxation time, lazy mornings, and just a hint of productivity (in my opinion, this is the recipe for a perfect weekend). You’re relaxing on your couch watching the Great British Baking Show for the billionth time and reflecting on how refreshed you feel after such a lovely couple of days off. Suddenly you recall the reason why a couple of days off felt so needed.
You remember how last week you had been so stressed at work because several deadlines all seemed to align on your busiest day. You had realized a day late that you had missed one of those deadlines and had gotten chewed out by one of your coworkers via email with your direct supervisor CC’d. Not only all of that, but on Wednesday morning you woke up to find your car with a flat tire (you knew you should have checked it more thoroughly after accidentally driving over that pothole on the freeway on Monday while you were driving home). Overall, it had felt like such a long and tiring week, and you had felt so ready to just take some time to recharge.
But now, on Sunday afternoon, with only a few hours of weekend remaining and Monday morning looming on the horizon, you are faced with the tragic truth: The weekend is over and you’re about to face a new week, probably equally stressful to the last. What horrors may lie before you? Only Monday will tell, so you’d better waste your last seven hours of free time worrying about all the awful possibilities (at least, that’s what the Sunday Scaries tell you to do).
How can we cope?
Obviously, feeling gut-wrenching anxiety about once a week isn’t the most pleasant experience. There must be another way! The good news is, there definitely are other ways. The bad news is, most likely none of them will completely eradicate the Sunday Scaries to the point of extinction. But maybe, throwing one or two of these ideas into practice will allow you to reclaim some of those last moments of recuperation time before Monday morning actually arrives. Here are four ideas to beat the Sunday Scaries and take back your weekend!
1. Make Sundays for relaxation only.
I speak from experience when I say that it’s easy to leave all your chores and errands to do on Sunday. Sundays often become a sort of “catch-up” day for a lot of people. It’s the day you clean, pick up groceries, wash your bedsheets, put gas in the car, etc. And I totally get why we do it too! We’re so exhausted after the long work week that we just want to finally get to the relaxing part of the weekend. Unfortunately, this sets us up for greater anxiety by the end of it. When we leave all our chores for Sunday, we usually end up dealing with anxiety about that in addition to the standard Sunday Scaries anxiety. Here’s my first tip: Get all your errands and chores out of the way before Sunday arrives. Reserve Sundays for relaxation only. If you have any tasks to cross off before Monday morning, do them on Friday or Saturday. Don’t needlessly double your Sunday apprehension!
2. Plan something you’ll look forward to on Sunday night.
So now you’ve booked yourself a full day of relaxation every Sunday. But what more can you do? Make yourself even more excited for Sunday to arrive! Plan something you always look forward to doing, even if it’s seemingly small. Examples might include ordering takeout, watching a favorite movie or TV show, lighting a lovely-smelling candle, putting on your coziest pajamas, or taking a slow stroll around the neighborhood while listening to your favorite podcast or playlist. The options are endless. Whatever it is, make it something that you’ll truly feel eager to experience on Sunday evening and you might just replace your worry with excitement!
3. Practice anxiety-reduction techniques.
Let’s say you’ve done tips 1 and 2 and you’re still feeling the Scaries creeping up on you. You’re not alone! Making Sundays more enjoyable is not the end-all-be-all of eradicating your Monday apprehension. In fact, it’s usually not that easy. So what now? My next tip is to face that fear head-on with some anxiety-reduction techniques. The goal is to do something that will regulate your autonomic nervous system (which controls your “fight-or-flight” anxiety response) and activate your parasympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for rest and recovery from stress). Here are some ideas for you: Spending time outside, deep breathing, exercise, meditation or mindfulness, playing with your pet, taking a cool shower, or visualizing a calm space. If you aren’t sure what to try, a therapist is a great resource! We would love to brainstorm self-care and calming activities with you.
4. Prepare for Monday morning ahead of time.
If your worry just refuses to be kicked out, you can at least give yourself fewer things to feel anxious about on Sunday night. Ask yourself, “What can I do to feel more prepared for Monday morning?” and then try to accomplish at least 2 or 3 of the things you come up with before you go to sleep on Sunday. Some things I usually do are pack my lunch, lay out my clothes for the next day (including shoes!), fill out my planner or to-do list for the week, set my alarm, and get out a mug to use for my coffee in the morning. What helps you feel prepared for a new week might be completely different than me though, so focus on what really is going to set you up for success when you step out of bed the next day.
If all else fails, remind yourself that you can always do your best and be proud of how hard you are trying, even when things aren’t going your way. Let’s start this new week off strong!
If you’re interested in meeting with a therapist to get some insight on your personal Sunday Scaries, or if you just want to talk about life in general, the therapists at EVOLVEwithin would love to help! Give us a call at (262) 649-3297 or visit our website to learn more or to request an appointment. We can’t wait to get to know you!
Article contribution by Tabitha Schroeder, MS, MFT-IT
Whether you’ve been married to someone with an anxiety disorder for twenty years or you just went on your first date last week, it can be tough to figure out the best way to support and be there for your significant other when they are struggling. To make things even more complicated, not every anxiety disorder is the same, and even two people with the same diagnosis might experience their symptoms in completely different ways! Regardless of what they’re going through, it’s hard to feel like a helpless bystander while your loved one is suffering. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I not only work with individual diagnoses, but I pay special attention to the ways those diagnoses can affect relationships (which is a lot of ways!). I’ve put together four brief tips to help you start navigating these challenging waters:
1. Do your research
Read up on your partner’s diagnosis and symptoms. While it’s important to let them tell you about their individual experience with their anxiety, it can also help them feel cared for and understood if you take the time to educate yourself on what they might be going through. For example, if your significant other has Generalized Anxiety Disorder, one of their symptoms might be becoming tired more easily than usual or even just feeling tired for no apparent reason. If you’ve done your research and know that fatigue is a common symptom of anxiety, you’ll be able to sympathize with your partner when they complain of not knowing why they’re so tired all the time. Another great way to do your research is to read articles (like this one!) that offer tips on how to help someone with the diagnosis that your partner has. So, great work! You’re already taking a positive step toward helping your loved one manage their anxiety.
2. Don’t take it personally
Sometimes (or oftentimes) your partner’s anxiety might spill into your relationship. They might feel some anxiety about whether you still love them or about whether your relationship is the “real deal”. They might ask you for reassurance over and over again no matter how much you say you want to be with them. As the person on the receiving end of these insecurities, you might start to wonder what you’re doing wrong or why your significant other doesn’t trust you the way you trust them. While it’s normal to have those thoughts, my encouragement to you is to remember that your loved one’s anxiety isn’t about you. If you take their worries personally, it’s easy to think that they have anxiety about your relationship because they think you’re an untrustworthy person or that you’re the type of person to cheat on them. In reality, the source of their anxiety is probably not related to you at all! If your partner tells you they have some fears related to your relationship or if they exhibit any of the behaviors I’ve mentioned here, take a moment to remind yourself that their anxiety doesn’t mean you’ve done anything to hurt them, and ask them how you can help them ease some of those worries. Your support in those moments can be so valuable to the strength and the growth of your relationship.
3. Listen first, suggestions later
You care about your partner, right? So, naturally, you want to make all their problems go away and ensure that they never feel any negative emotions - ever! It is really hard to just stand by and watch someone you love suffering through moments of anxiety. How often do you catch yourself thinking or saying something along the lines of “Maybe if you tried …xyz… then you wouldn’t feel so anxious”? We automatically go into problem-solving mode when we know our partner is in distress because we want to help them to not be in distress anymore. The trouble with anxiety is that there isn’t a perfect solution that makes anxiety go away. Even when certain things work in some circumstances, they might not work all the time. On top of all that, when anxiety hits, it can be hard to process potential solutions when your nervous system is on such high alert. When your partner tells you they feel anxious about something, let your first response be listening. Help them to get through that difficult moment. Then, later on after their anxiety has calmed, offer your suggestions: “I know you were really worried about that thing before. I was wondering if you had ever tried …xyz… Do you think that would help?” When your significant other has anxiety, giving them space to feel heard and supported can often be more helpful than any piece of advice you could offer.
4. Consider therapy
What better way to support your significant other with anxiety than to learn how to do it from the experts: therapists! Couples’ therapy can be a really amazing bonding opportunity for people in relationships, even if you don’t have anything you consider to be a major “problem” you want to work through. A therapist can help you and your partner learn more about how to work together and support each other through a variety of difficult situations, including times when your partner is feeling anxious. If you’re not quite feeling up to couples’ therapy, or if your significant other isn’t ready to try it yet, you might also consider individual therapy for yourself. I imagine you may be thinking, “But I don’t have the diagnosis, my partner does!” True, but therapy isn’t just for people with diagnoses. Therapy can be just a space to vent and process day-to-day life, a time to discover more about yourself, or, in this case, an opportunity to practice skills that will help you in your relationship with a person who has anxiety.
If you’re interested in trying out couples’ therapy, individual therapy, or even both at the same time, the therapists at EVOLVEwithin would love to help! Give us a call at (262) 649-3297 or visit our website to learn more or to request an appointment. We can’t wait to get to know you!
Article contribution by Tabitha Schroeder, MS, MFT-IT
When I say "COVID-19" or "Coronavirus", what does that evoke in you? For many of us, this is an extremely difficult time in our world full of unprecedented change and lack of preferred routine and structure. Whether it be working from home when you usually spend 40 hours a week in the office, or learning how to be a “homeschooling parent,” or having to social distance and isolate because it is harmful to our health to go to any social gatherings or public places.
Maybe your wedding got postponed. Perhaps your child’s graduation ceremony got cancelled. Whatever the case is, we are all experiencing a time of turmoil and increased stress amidst trying to find our new normal. With these drastic changes and increased stress comes increased anxiety and depression, both in individuals who already experience these mental health struggles and in individuals who have never had anxiety or depression before.
The purpose of this article is to briefly describe signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression in yourself and in your loved ones. With this information, it is our hope as mental health professionals that you feel some sense or normalcy and calm knowing that you are most certainly not alone, and that there are some wonderful resources available to you in the form of self-care (i.e. taking care of yourself and your anxiety/depression) as well as professional assistance.
The current pandemic is causing levels of uncertainty that many of us have never experienced before. With that said, increased stress, anxiety, and/or depression is normal and expected, especially due to the fear that COVID-19 has created in society and in our personal lives. How do you recognize anxiety and depression? What are the signs and symptoms that you or a loved one may be feeling? Let’s start with anxiety.
Ultimately, anxiety is a feeling of worry or unease that may be associated with a particular event or situation and is often made worse by apprehension over an uncertain outcome. You can look at anxiety as stress’s older, more cumbersome and intense brother. Below are some typical signs and symptoms of anxiety, although keep in mind that anxiety may present itself differently from person to person and this is not an exhaustive list.
Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety:
Next, let’s look at the definition and signs/symptoms of depression. Depression is referred to as a mood disorder that can cause an intense and consistent feeling of sadness, lack of interest, or low self-esteem in an individual. Depression can present itself in various ways can can vary significantly from person to person, including the severity of symptoms.
Signs & Symptoms of Depression:
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above signs & symptoms of anxiety and/or depression, related to the COVID-19 pandemic or not, there are an abundance of resources available to you when reaching out to a mental health professional.
From your local therapist, the following are suggestions for self-care related to stress, anxiety, and depression that you can do at home.
If you feel as though these home tips just aren’t enough, please seek help from an appropriate therapist or counselor. Many therapists are now seeing clients via telehealth (through a computer, smart phone, or phone calls).
Here at EVOLVEwithin, we are taking new clients via telehealth and will soon return to in-person sessions when it is safe to do so. You can contact us directly at 262-649-3297 to schedule an appointment!
Take care of your inner self. Both COVID-19 and mental health are pretty invisible, but that doesn’t make them less important. These areas of focus within our health is not something to overlook.
Article contribution by Hannah Stadler, MS, MFT-IT