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Therapy Tips: Insights From a Client-Turned-Therapist

Things to Know Before You Start Therapy:

Advice From Someone Who Has Been a Client and is Now a Therapist

So you want to start therapy? Great! It is a fantastic way to get to know yourself better, problem solve conflicts in your life with someone not involved in your life, and heal injuries you have received throughout the years that cannot be seen. It can be super scary to start this process - you mean I have to talk to a stranger about personal topics!? - but hopefully these points help put you at ease. 

  • We want to know you - the authentic you, weird quirks and all. This is the place where you can unmask and be you without judgment. If you want to get work done in session, we need you to be honest with us, and with yourself. All those intake forms we ask you to do before you start therapy is to help us get to know you - they are important and we need you to do them when requested.

  • If you want to use insurance, we have to give you a diagnosis. We will definitely discuss it with you and explain our logic. If you think something else matches better, tell us and we can discuss it. Labels aren't everything but we recognize the importance of them being accurate. 

  • Tell us we are wrong! We sometimes are summarizing or reflecting what you are saying and can be completely wrong. Tell us! We want to make sure we are truly hearing you and making sure we understand what you are saying. We don’t know the answers for everything, but we want to make sure we hear you so we can help you find the answer you need.

  • We can be friendly but we aren't your friend. Not that we don't sometimes want to - you're a cool person! - but ethically we can't have that kind of relationship with you. So if you see us in the street and we ignore you, it’s for your confidentiality purposes, not that we hate you. Each therapist has their own rules on communicating/interacting outside of sessions, so make sure you are clear on those after the first session.

  • We are still human. We have our own stressors and trauma. We will sometimes get triggered during a session. Know it isn't you, and know this is why most therapists have their own therapist! Your grand-therapist if you will. With that, we get invested - show us the pictures, tell us the wins, give us the gossip. Just be prepared for us to tie it back to what you are working on.

  • This is our job. We care about you and want to make sure you are succeeding, but we do have to hold you accountable as well since it is our livelihood. For example, at many practices it is fee-for-service, meaning we only get paid if we see you. So if we are getting on you about tardiness or absenteeism, know that it is because we also have bills to pay. Plus, you can't do the work if you're not in session!

  • We are here to see you grow and heal. We want you to graduate from therapy and be able to do what you need to do without depending on us. We are going to ask you what your goals are for therapy. If you don't know, that's ok! But therapy isn't a permanent thing - if you have nothing to work on, then it's not time for therapy. When you do have things to work on, you will be welcome back. 

  • Fit is important! If we aren't clicking it is 100% OKAY to want a different therapist. However, give it a chance before deciding to switch. The intake is always going to be a bit weird so give it at least one full session if you are unsure about fit. 

  • If we refer you out, know that it is with your best interest at heart. This could be because we don't have enough training in what you need, we are struggling to hold our personal biases in check to be fully there for you, or because something happened in life that made it so schedules need to shift and appointments aren't feasible anymore. We will do our best to make sure you get matched with someone who will be a better fit so you don’t lose out on services.

  • Therapy is work - you are putting in time and effort to heal emotional & psychological injury, and you deserve to be heard. There are so many types of therapy depending on what you need, so make sure you speak up about what is and is not working, tell us what you want to focus on, and be honest with yourself too.


JoAnna Hubbard, LMHC, is a recent transplant to New Mexico from California, having grown up throughout Southern California. She moved to Las Cruces in 2021 to pursue her Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at NMSU and is now a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. JoAnna's academic background in California includes a BA in Psychology with a minor in Sociology and a Juris Doctorate with an emphasis in Criminal Law. She has diverse professional experience, having worked in settings such as a long-term in-patient psychiatric hospital, as a high school counselor, and as a mediator in Small Claims Court. JoAnna has experience working with severe mental illness, trauma, and LGBTQIA+ identity processing. She strongly believes in examining the systems that influence our lives and how we adapt to them, utilizing multiple therapy modalities to meet clients' needs. JoAnna enjoys incorporating various forms of art and games into therapy, including therapeutic D&D and bibliotherapy.

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