By: Breanna Potts M.S.
“Therapy is cool!” “It’s okay not to be okay!” “Therapy is one of the most valuable investments in yourself!”
Do these phrases sound familiar? Perhaps you hear these all the time and maybe even believe them, but the thought of starting therapy? That’s a totally different story. Maybe you are thinking about starting therapy, maybe you just know it would be a good idea, or maybe you are being forced to go, but the thought of meeting someone new to talk about hard things seems so scary that avoiding just a bit longer seems like the better option. At Recovered and Restored, our team of therapists is made up of people who are recovered from eating disorders. We get it!
Reaching Out For Help Is Not a Sign of Weakness
But we want to gently remind you that reaching out for help is no sign of weakness; it is so incredibly brave!! It takes so much strength and courage to pick up the phone, draft the email, or send in an inquiry and we applaud each and every individual that takes this very big, brave step!
Therapy is cool, it is absolutely okay not to be okay, and therapy is a valuable investment in yourself! If you are on the fence about taking this step, keep reading to find out all the insider intel from a therapist on what to expect in therapy and eating disorder treatment!
1. The intake…what exactly is that?
Your first session is the intake session and what you can surely expect in this session is a lot of questions! Some people prefer lots of questions to help them share their stories, while others cringe at the thought of being asked personal questions. No matter which side you relate to, your intake session should not feel like an interrogation!
You are in Control
You are always allowed to interrupt your therapist if you are feeling overwhelmed! The reason for all of these questions is so that your therapist can gather relevant and pertinent information about you so that the treatment approach can be made to fit YOU! Treatment is not a one size fits all thing, so we promise there is a purpose to all the questions!
You might be wondering, “well what kinds of questions can I expect?” Every intake process is different, but they all generally include questions on your current symptoms, your family history, trauma history, treatment/therapy history, medications, relationships, work/school, and goals for therapy. However, specific to eating disorder treatment, your therapist will ask you questions about your eating habits, self-care, social media use, and your relationship with food, body, and movement. Now before you run away screaming, you are always in control of how much you share!
Push and Pull
A good therapist will push you a bit, but will also respect your boundaries and never force or pressure you into sharing anything you are not ready to. We understand that hard things are, well…hard to talk about. You are not letting your therapist down or “failing” the intake if you struggle to open up about some things and your chance to share those things is definitely not lost. It is ultimately more helpful in developing your treatment if your therapist knows as much about your presenting concerns!
Intake for Eating Disorder Treatment is Challenging But Worth It
This session is often the hardest because it covers so many areas of your life and well, who feels comfortable with a magnifying glass on their personal stuff? Not many people! But we encourage you to stick with it! Only the first, and sometimes second, sessions are for the intake, but after that, the sessions will be more conversational! Also, it is completely normal to feel shaken up after the intake session. You are essentially bringing up things you’d rather not and that can stir up lots of different emotions. It can be uncomfortable, but it will get better!
2. You are also interviewing the therapist
Therapy is for you but it is absolutely okay for you to ask your therapist questions! Maybe you heard of people “finding the right fit” or “shopping for a therapist” when it comes to starting therapy. In the same way, you compare items, prices, or relationships before making a decision on which fits your personality, values, budget, and needs, you are doing the same when choosing a therapist.
The Importance of HAES in Eating Disorder Treatment
Every therapist is different! Many therapists practice the same treatment modalities, use similar interventions, and often share specialties, but their approach to therapy and approach to using these modalities and interventions vary. However, in eating disorder treatment, it is crucial for your therapist to be Health at Every Size (HAES) aligned! HAES acknowledges that health is found in every size body! So, in order to find the right fit for you, ask questions!
Common questions you might ask include:
· How long have you been practicing therapy?
· What therapies do you practice that would fit my needs?
· What are your treatment recommendations?
· What is your approach to therapy?
· What does a typical session look like with you?
Specific to eating disorder treatment, common questions you might ask in addition to the above include:
· Are you aligned with HAES?
· What is your experience in treating eating disorders?
· How do you determine which level of treatment is appropriate?
Of course, there are many other questions you can ask! Your therapist should answer your questions, but if they can’t, they should provide you with a reason as to why they can’t answer the question.
3. You are the expert on YOU!
Okay, let’s be honest, has anyone ever told you, “I know you best” and that left you feeling some type of way? While this may have come from a well-intentioned place, no one knows you better than you know you, simply because you are the only one that can be YOU!! You live in your body, with your mind, and your lived experiences, so only you can be the expert on you!
A Therapist Should Respect Your Input
A therapist should never act or communicate to you that they know you better. This simply cannot be true. Over time, your therapist will learn about you, your experiences, your process, interests, triggers, etc., and be able to offer insight and point out themes, but this doesn’t mean that they know you better than yourself.
A Relational Approach at Recovered and Restored
We work from a relational therapy approach, which basically means we treat therapy as a relationship and very strongly believe in the healing power of relationships and the important role the therapeutic relationship has in your healing journey!
So, what good would a relationship be if you had someone telling you what to do and what to feel without ever learning about you, from you? Your therapist should guide you in exploring your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and experiences. The bottom line is nobody knows all the intimate details of your story, except you! Your therapist is the expert on therapy, not you!
4. It will likely feel worse before it gets better
You were hoping this one wouldn’t be on the list, right? We know. This is the one you know is true, but deep-down kind of hope isn’t true, so you just pretend it’s not actually true. You are not alone in that! Who wants to feel worse?! That sounds like a perfect reason to not go to therapy!! But just wait, take a deep breath, and hear it out. It will likely feel worse before it gets better simply because you are confronting things and challenging your eating disorder, which intensifies the eating disorder voice, but we promise it won’t be hard forever!
Bringing Your Eating Disorder Into the Light
Have you ever had that experience when you leave a pitch-black movie theatre and get hit with the sunlight so hard, you’re eyeballs actually hurt? This is clearly not the same thing, but the concept is the same. If you keep things hidden and in the dark long enough, when you let some light in, it’s going to hurt! And so, you might read, “it gets worse before it gets better” and only hear, “it gets worse,” and then make your decision to not start therapy, and move on.
It Gets Better
And this is totally understandable, but maybe you missed the hope attached at the end; “it gets better.” You can keep things in the dark and not have to deal with that pain in bringing it to the light and get by in life, but in doing this, it stays dark and you stay stuck. Or, you can be the brave bad*ss you are and gently and slowly confront those things, challenge your eating disorder, and finally experience the hope and truth that it will get better! The choice is yours, but we want you to know that it is incredibly worth it to allow yourself to heal.
5. You are not getting a grade!
Therapy is not school!! Yes, there is sometimes “homework” that therapists will offer to their clients and there are therapeutic modalities that require clients to complete a skill or worksheet outside of the session. However, there is no actual grade you receive for these things! Therapy is not a pass/fail ordeal and there are no numbers, letters, or any other grading scale applied to your treatment! Maybe that’s the truth you needed to hear today.
Expectations, NOT Judgement
In therapy, there are expectations such as being on time, being honest with your treatment team, making an honest effort, and giving new skills and strategies a try, but you should never be judged or scolded for not completing something! There are also certain policies that therapists and practices have that outline fees, cancellations, confidentiality, etc., but it’s not a syllabus. We promise! We do understand that many clients want to please their therapists and be the “model client” and do everything right. If you feel this way, this may be a great first topic to process with your therapist!! All the more reason to go!
Nobody is Perfect
Nobody is perfect and it would be ridiculous for your therapist to expect that from you. We know that in other relationships these behaviors come out in wanting to please others, so it’s natural for that to happen in therapy, but we just want you to show up as you are and be honest about what you are going through!
Each Journey to Healing is Unique
While these are 5 key things to expect in eating disorder therapy, especially your first session, please know that everybody’s experience is different. We hope that you are filled up with courage and excitement to start your journey! Our doors are open and we would be more than honored to share in your journey!
Start Eating Disorder Therapy in Pennsylvania at Recovered and Restored Eating Disorder Therapy Center
We are here to support you! We’ve been there we get it. We provide outpatient services as well as more intense treatment with an individualized team of recovered professionals. Check out a blog by our owner Gabby where she shares about her personal healing and triumph.
You can have recovery too!! You are worthy of healing and inner peace connect with us today!
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Begin your journey to health and wholeness! You CAN do this!
Other Mental Health Services Offered in PA, NJ, DE, and FL
We offer a wide variety of services related to eating disorder recovery including trauma therapy! We offer Weekly Support Groups, Nutrition Services, and Family and Parent Therapy as well as Coaching, all tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual. We offer our services for Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating, and Orthorexia online in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Florida! We are here to offer our support and understanding in a safe and non-judgmental environment.