A Therapy Session, What’s it Really Like.


I am a working therapist, and I would like to share with you what it’s like to see clients. Therapists generally work the same way; however, each therapist works slightly different, adding their own personality and style. Through the years, I’ve created my own way of working with clients that I have found to be highly successful.

After the initial phone call,  an intake session is scheduled. In this session, we speak about what the problem is, how it is affecting your life, how I might help you, and together we develop a plan.

Sometimes clients ask, “How are you different from bouncing ideas off my friends and family.” 

First of all, family and friends can be great to bounce ideas off of, but because they love you and want good things for you sometimes they do not provide you with the truth, can be overly harsh or want you to do what they want.  I’m not family, nor am I a friend and that fact gives me the ability to look at what is going on as a neutral third party. Additionally, I have many years of specific training and experience to help people with all sorts of bothersome problems quickly and effectively.

Therapists are bound by laws and state regulation to protect your information by keeping it confidential (there are a couple of exceptions by law) but mostly what you say in therapy stays in therapy.  Sometimes friends accidentally share your secrets.

Therapists do not advise as friends do, but therapists allow you to talk out your feelings, help identify the behaviors that are causing you problems, and create a strategy for making changes. Therapists are also able to determine if your concerns might be physical, sometimes depression and other mental health issues start with some physical problems that you may not be aware of. 

Therapists have spent years gaining experiences in the practice of counseling and often gain over 3000 hours before they can work independently. Then, of course, there are two state exams that therapists must pass before they can sit in the room with you. Your family and friends not so much.

Therapists also get specialized training, for example, I have personally have training in adolescent drug and alcohol recovery, inpatient and outpatient therapy; and I have also experience working at a boy’s home, and a psychiatric hospital. These experiences have given me the opportunity to use different types of therapeutic interventions, i.e., CBT, DBT, Solution Focus, Play Therapy, Trauma-Focused, among others.

You can choose a therapist through your insurance company, or perhaps by word of mouth, or by searching therapists websites.  In California,  a professional organization called California Association Of Marriage and Family Therapists, (CAMFT) has a list of therapists.

I seem to have many referrals through the years by word of mouth – the nicest of referrals.  It means former clients trusted me, felt they were helped by our work together.  We discussed family issues, working in a business with family members, addiction issues, parent-child issues, children who were adopted and struggling with “who they are, where they came from.”

Each session is a problem-solving session.  You talk about your current situation, and your therapist uses their expertise to help you in trying to resolve the problem. Also, remember all our conversations are confidential.

Some therapists like to give homework in between sessions so that you can practice in real life the new skills and the time in between sessions you can think about what you’d like to discuss in the next session.  Your therapist might make some suggestions about what you might do in between sessions to feel better, i.e., exercise three times a week for 15 minutes outside in the sun. Most clients start therapy weekly, and then as confidence grows, skills increase, emotions are in check, and the problems start to be resolved, the sessions may change to bi-monthly, then monthly. 

Therapy should not be for forever but used when certain problems arise that make it hard for you to function in your daily life.

Some clients find that they come to therapy for six months to a year and then go about living their lives.  When new problems pop up, or they feel overwhelmed, they come back for a check-in, learn new skills and end therapy quickly. It all depends on the problems and how disabling it is to you.    

B.G. Collins summed up my feeling of being a therapist best he said;

“Most grateful for the job I choose.”

As you can see, there are a few major differences between advice from family and friends or a therapist. If you are struggling with any life problem give me a call and let’s chat about the work, we can do together.

By Judy McGehee, LMFT

My passion is working with children, teens, adults and couples, who want to build meaning in their lives. Building trust, intimacy, and companionship are most important to me as a therapist.

My relationship in counseling began about 35 years ago in working with families in church settings,in schools, and addiction treatment centers.. I became licensed in 1995, and have found this is the profession I thrive in, and wish for my clients the richness and relationships they are seeking from therapy.

I have also worked in,psychiatric hospitals, and children's centers, and believe my career has been embellished through each and every client I have had the privilege of working with.

I also enjoy being a Clinical Supervisor, and have had the honor of mentoring over 495 Interns/Associates since 1997. I received my Master's Degree from Phillips Graduate Institute, I am a member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) and enjoy the membership of three local chapters of CAMFT.

I look forward to working with you in the future at CCS.

9 Signs Therapy Is Actually Working

Experts break down what progress looks like.

Nicole Pajer On Assignment For HuffPost

eek after week, you may walk into your therapist’s office and pour out your anxieties, hopes and dreams, or you might cry or get angry. Does any of this mean the process is actually working?

According to experts, there are definite signs that show you’re on the right track. If you are experiencing any of the following, it may be safe to say that your weekly counseling sessions are paying off:

1. You’ll look forward to your therapy appointments

Revealing your innermost thoughts in a session can be daunting. But if you get to the place where opening up becomes more comfortable, you may have experienced some breakthroughs, according to Rachel Dubrow, a licensed clinical social worker in Northfield, Illinois. Dubrow said her clients often make the connection that their treatment is working when they no longer feel nervous before appointments.

“They also tell me that they start to feel lighter and better after a session,” she said.

2. You’re not as “in your head”

“I’ve had clients tell me that when they begin to feel better, they aren’t as ‘in their heads’ anymore,” said Christy Doering, a therapist with Sage Counseling in Plano, Texas.

According to Doering, constant rumination over anxieties, listening to your “inner critic” or berating yourself for past regrets takes up valuable real estate in the brain.

“When people start to get well, they give that space to something better. It’s often a new appreciation for the present moment, or more interaction with family and coworkers, but it builds upon itself and contributes to overall wellness pretty quickly,” she said.

3. You’re having fun again

Anhedonia ― which is the inability to experience pleasure from activities that people used to find enjoyable ― is one of the hallmark symptoms of mood disorders like depression.

“If a person loves to sew, fix cars, read or exercise, then when he or she is depressed, those things will stop bringing joy,” Doering said. “But when people are improving, they will one day wake up and realize they feel like doing those things again, and often those things bring even more joy than they did in the past. It’s like having a stomach virus and feeling like you will never want to eat again, but then after it’s over, everything tastes wonderful.”

4. You are focusing on the present

“Instead of worrying about whether or not your first grader will get into college ... or feeling guilty over enjoying that bagel you had for breakfast, you are being mindful of the here and now and tending to the things you are in control of at the moment,” said Kayce Hodos, a licensed professional counselor in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

So rather than stressing about the future, you are focusing on work tasks, listening to a friend over margaritas, taking a walk on your lunch break or enjoying your favorite band’s new album.

5. You’ve changed your standards on who you swipe right for on Tinder

Sheri Heller, a New York City-based psychotherapist, noted that effective therapy may make you shift your focus toward more stable partners. Additionally, it may help you seek out healthier friendships and romantic partnerships.

“As clients work through core wounds rooted in relational traumas and betrayals, their healing is evidenced in using discernment and discrimination with who they bring into their lives,” she said. “Often these new partnerships are completely contrary to the sort of toxic traits they found themselves gravitating toward in the past.”

6. Self-care becomes a priority

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According to Hodos, noticing that you are beginning to pay attention to yourself is a great sign of improvement. This could be as simple as booking a weekly massage, journaling about your thoughts and feelings or asking your boss for that overdue raise.

“Regardless of how it shows up for you, you are positively including some much-needed self-care in your routine, and a bonus is you are enjoying it with no, or at least less, guilt,” she said.

7. You’ve started applying your therapist’s suggestions ― and they’re working

“I know that therapy is working for my clients when they are able to transfer what we have been working on in the therapy room to their lives,” said Sheralyn Shockey-Pope, co-founder of Central Counseling Services.

She cited a couple on the brink of divorce that she treated as an example. “They began to come into sessions with statements like, ‘I remembered that he was hurting, too, and when things got too intense at home we took a timeout, just like we did in therapy,’” she said.

Dubrow agrees, adding that she loves seeing patients gain a sense of pride over properly applying techniques she has armed them with. “They’ll come back and report that what they did felt challenging at first but that they were successful in the end,” she said.

8. You may start to go backwards

It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true.

“As you work on dismantling old, unhealthy thought patterns and coping habits, feelings of distress and unwanted behaviors sometimes have a surge before they go away,” said Rachel Kazez, a Chicago-area licensed clinical social worker. “Without those things masking the feelings, people might feel stronger and urges to act in unwanted ways might feel stronger or more necessary.”

Jenmarie Eadie, a licensed clinical social worker in Upland, California agreed, adding that anger in a session is a perfectly valid ― and sometimes wanted ― emotion.

“For me, a sign therapy is working is when the client gets mad at me,” Eadie said. “It’s usually because he [or] she is working through the issues with a safe person who won’t retaliate, dismiss, or abuse his [or] her emotions. For my kid clients, this usually means a crayon or two is going to be thrown my way!”

9. You realize you are only responsible for your problems

“It becomes clear to you which problems are actually yours to own and which ones you’ve been taking on that have nothing to do with you,” Hodos said.

For instance, you might learn to lovingly support your husband and listen to his job complaints without frantically updating his resume for him, or you proactively text your mom to let her know you will not be available for your usual Tuesday night chat, sans guilt.

Therapy is a very personalized journey and what works for some is different than what may benefit others. But any of the above changes signify you’re headed down the right path. 


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