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How Can I Open Up in Therapy?

Getting the Most Out of the Therapeutic Process

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Updated January 07, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Communicating with a mental health professional may seem intimidating at first. After all, you'll be expected to open up about your current symptoms, express how you're feeling, and discuss many aspects of your personal life. Feeling unable to open up can become a barrier to therapy and prevent you from getting the help you need. The following describes some useful tips to guide you in opening up to the therapeutic process.

1. Give The Therapeutic Relationship A Chance

You may initially find it a little awkward to confide in a complete stranger about your inner thoughts and feelings. Fortunately, your doctor or therapist will be anticipating your discomfort, and will be prepared to help ease your anxiety about attending therapy.

It's not uncommon for a person to feel embarrassed after his first session, finding it too difficult to return to therapy. But if you give the therapeutic relationship a chance, you may be surprised at how quickly you become comfortable with your therapist.

Remember that your therapist is highly trained in her profession and wants to help you reach your treatment goals. Like most relationships, the connection you have with your therapist should grow and become stronger over time. Eventually, you should develop a therapeutic rapport with your therapist that will assist you in achieving your treatment goals.

2. Come Prepared

If you're feeling nervous or uncertain about the therapy process, it can be helpful to come prepared with issues you'd like to address, and reports on your progress. Write down what has happened between sessions so that you can read this information to your therapist. Writing exercises, such as keeping a panic diary or mood and anxiety chart, can help in documenting your symptoms and progress.

Being prepared to talk about certain topics can help you focus on treatment goals rather than any potential discomfort with the therapy process. This will also help your therapist understand more about your experience with panic disorder, and assist in developing your treatment plan. Come prepared to your next therapy session with written information on your progress, questions, and goals.

3. Try Online Therapy

In recent years, online therapy has become a popular treatment option for a variety of mood and anxiety disorders, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and panic disorder. Internet-based counseling works by providing online therapeutic services, including live chat, video communication, and email correspondence.

There are numerous pros and cons to internet-based counseling. On the beneficial side, this therapy option can help ease any potential discomfort about attending therapy. For instance, many people find it easier to open up online instead of having a face-to-face meeting. Online counseling can help you become more comfortable with the therapy process, and help give you an idea of what direct therapy would be like.

4. Consider Changing Therapists

Sometimes therapy roadblocks can reflect therapeutic issues or "transferences," in which emotions or thoughts about one person can be transferred onto another — often the therapist herself. It can be worthwhile to address these issues therapeutically, and it may also be important to try to discuss with your therapist the very issues and discomforts you're having with her. Although challenging, such communication can often help the two of you work through such roadblocks and build a better working alliance. If you've given it some time and still aren't connecting with your therapist, you may need to consider changing doctors or therapists. If you believe that your therapist doesn’t seem to understand your condition, is unfriendly or lacks empathy for your struggle, or makes you feel uncomfortable in significant ways, it's time to make this change.

Most therapists are dedicated to helping clients achieve their treatment goals, but sometimes a certain therapist may just not be the right fit for you. If ultimately you feel that there is a disconnect between you and your therapist, it can be best to change therapists and work towards progress with a person with whom you feel more comfortable.

Therapy can be an effective treatment option for panic disorder. Once you get past any initial hesitations about therapy, you'll be able to benefit from the therapeutic process. The relationship you have with your therapist can greatly impact your recovery process, so developing a therapeutic relationship of trust and openness can help you in managing panic disorder, panic attacks, and agoraphobia.

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