In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. - Abraham Maslow


I have a friend who was in a situation where she knew she probably needed some outside professional help. She had asked me for the name of a counselor about a year before. She asked again about 6 months later. Finally, she was more serious about going, especially because the situation got worse. When she thought about going to counseling, honestly, she felt she was afraid to reveal herself, reveal any dirty secrets or dirty laundry. She was afraid to be judged and to really get to what the true problem is. She felt like she was doing everything right and was afraid to hear that maybe she wasn’t. What if she wasn’t willing to accept that?

Coming to therapy can be intimidating, scary, and overwhelming. Many people grow up believing that therapy is just for “crazy” people or people who have “issues”. It’s for those “other” people, and not you. Or, we might wonder:

Why can’t I get through this on my own?

Is there something wrong with me?

What will happen in therapy?

Finally, my friend made an appointment. She went. Here’s what she said after she went:

 “After the first 5 minutes, I felt safe.  The atmosphere felt safe, the office was like a friend's cozy living room. For me, the hardest part was making the appointment and walking through the door.  I had to get over my ego and get over my perception of myself. Yes, we are not perfect and that’s okay. It was a freeing feeling. Whatever happens is going to make the situation better, no matter what they tell me.”

Wow, this is SO honest! And common. My friend was comfortable sharing this information because she hopes it will help others. She knows her story is typical. We think about coming in and we know it might be helpful, but fear can stop us. Or we might have our own preconceived notion about therapy already and don’t believe it will help.

So what should you expect with therapy and what really happens?

  1. Before the first appointment

What she experienced is pretty similar to what happens with us at Bridging Hope Counseling, but every office is a little different. At BHC, we have a receptionist who answers the phone and schedules appointments. Some counseling offices you may have to leave a voicemail for a therapist first. We will need to get information from you ahead of time (name, address, phone numbers, birthdate, phone number, email, insurance information and the general reason why you are coming in). You will then receive an email to set up an online portal. The portal will have questions for you to complete before your appointment.  After your first appointment with us, if you want to continue, you schedule the ongoing appointments with your therapist.

     2.  The first appointment

At the first appointment, you will fill out some paperwork. You will also need to make payment if you have a copay or paying outside your insurance. The therapist will ask you some basic questions like what you are hoping to get out of therapy, how long have some of the struggles been going on, who are the important people in your life, what you like to do, what you do for work/school and your family. Basically the first session is the therapist getting to know you.

      3.   Safety and connection to your therapist.

It’s important that you feel safe like my friend did. If you would like, ask the therapist questions – seriously! Don’t hesitate if there is something you want to know. You are sharing intimate details about your life. The research shows that the relationship between client and therapist is essential in the success of therapy. Think about this – what makes you connect and be close with certain friends? The ones you can trust! The ones you share things with and they don’t judge you, they keep your secrets, they do what they say and are kind. You will feel heard and be seen. Dr. Robert Firestone is quoted saying “Above all, the therapist must remain an authentic human being with genuine feelings”.  

     4.  Length and time

Therapy appointments vary with different agencies. Our sessions are typically 45 or 53 minutes long. The frequency and duration of the sessions depend on each client. Some people come for 3-4 months, where couples and families can be longer like 6 months to a year. If there are more deep difficulties that need time to uncover, it could be longer than a year. With some clients, the trust takes longer to build and that is okay. It is typical to come weekly at first. However, there are times where I’ve seen people twice a week for a period of time. Clients can also move to every other week or even monthly check-ins.

    5. Ending therapy

When you are using a lot of the tools you were given, you don’t have as much to talk about, and you feel more like yourself, you will know when therapy isn’t needed anymore.  Most therapists will have treatment goals that you will work towards and success can be when you have achieved those goals. For example, a goal in therapy could be “decrease depression and increase self-esteem”.  It’s also nice to find a trusted therapist that you can go back to during different times in your life. Maybe you and your spouse want to work through something, or maybe bring one of your kids in, or maybe you have a family thing that needs some discussion. It’s okay to come back get this outside advice!!


Going to therapy doesn’t need to be scary and it can be “freeing” as my friend says. Our family and friends can only support us so much – sometimes an outside therapist is exactly what we need for breakthrough and movement in our lives. You aren’t nuts or crazy! Honestly, if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, stress, unhealthy relationships, drinking too much, eating too much, or just general unhappiness, schedule therapy with us at BHC or somewhere else! Get the help you need.  It’s brave to take the step to come to therapy. It’s one of those things that after you do it, you wonder: what took me so long?!

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. - Viktor Frankl

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.--Maya Angelou


Heidi Waldoch, MA, LMFT, CDWF - Rogers & Lino Lakes
Heidi is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, MN Board, AAMFT Approved Supervisor LPCC Board Approved Supervisor, Certified Daring Way Facilitator, speaker and the owner of Bridging Hope Counseling.