Transitions as part of therapy

Therapy is usually a process. As such, it usually entails a series of appointments spread over the course of time. These appointments are not life, but they become part of life. As part of life, transitions to and from therapy sessions become important. 

Clients should try to set aside ample time to prepare for therapy. If the sessions occur via telehealth, clients should allow time between the last activity of home or school and entering the meeting space for therapy. Clients should also allow time for debriefing and re-regulating after therapy. If the clients are attending therapy in person, it is helpful to give ample time for the commute, as well as for walking into the building. Rushing into a session sets the brain on high alert and make it harder to do the processing work of therapy. 

Clients should prepare their bodies for therapy as well. Trying to think and/or process emotions on an empty stomach is the worst! If possible, therefore, clients should try to fuel and hydrate before session. If this is not possible, ask the therapist if it is okay to bring in food or drink. Better yet, if the therapist’s office makes food and water available, take advantage of it. 

Bodily preparation is important not only in terms of food and drink, but in terms of what therapists call regulation. Does the body feel still and calm, or does it feel tense? Does the mind feel cool and collected, or are thoughts running wild? The more regulated the client is, the better therapy will go. If the client has time to engage in relaxation exercises before therapy, this will greatly help the transition into therapy, and increase effectiveness. If not, clients can ask to include relaxation exercises in the beginning of session so as to better facilitate transitions into the learning and processing parts of the session. 

What about transitions not only into and out of sessions, but between therapists? Depending on the length of therapy, these can happen. Transitioning between therapists can be hard, but can also show strength of the client. Where possible, therapists try to plan transition sessions. When things change abruptly, clients can ask their new therapists to help with transitions by doing things like reading the previous therapist’s notes (if the therapist has access,) structuring sessions in a similar manner, or including interventions the client previously found helpful. Therapy is ultimately about transitioning the client to full functioning, so it is vital that clients speak up for what they need. 

The process of therapy is full of transitions: to and from, in and out, between activities, from therapist to therapist, etc. Life is full of transitions, too, though. The great thing about therapy is that it is practice for life, and ask such, learning how to transition in therapy can help with learning to manage the many transitions of life!