Here are some quick tips on how to get most out of therapy.
Finding someone with the right fit is very important. Maybe you are more comfortable with someone of a specific gender, age range, or who has a specific skill set. Or maybe you just need to talk to the person first to get a feel for if you click. One of the most important indicators of whether therapy will be helpful or not is client/therapist fit. Shop around! Interview a few. Trust your instinct. Whatever you do, don’t go to someone just because they are located close to your home or work. Don’t settle for someone just because he or she is in your insurance network. This decision is more important than that! Shop around. It will take some time on the front end, but save lots of time and trouble on the back end.
If you find, after a visit or two, that things aren’t the way you thought they’d be, don’t stay. You don’t owe your therapist anything. This is about you. Do what’s right for you and shop around until you find the best fit. It’s totally okay. It’s an expected part of the process. You aren’t going to hurt anyone’s feelings. If you want to get the most out of therapy, choosing your therapist well is the number one consideration.
You’d be amazed at how many people drop a bomb six months into the therapeutic relationship. If it takes that long to get comfortable articulating something, that’s fine. It takes as long as it takes; however, the earlier you give pertinent information, the sooner that it can be worked on. Therapists aren’t there to judge you. They need full disclosure to be effective helpers. Help them help you.
Being truthful also means to be authentic. You are in therapy to learn and grow so that you can feel better and be more effective. It is not particularly useful to you to complain about how all the things in your life are someone else’s fault. It’s not particularly useful to you to talk about other people. It’s not useful to you to hide your flaws. Your issues can’t be addressed if you spend your time pointing fingers at others, focusing on others, or hiding yourself. Let this be your safe place. Let your hair down. Put the protective barriers away and just be yourself. This is the one place in the world where it is perfectly acceptable to be completely self–indulgent. It’s a luxury. Take it!
Coming to your session prepared means to do any assigned homework. Write down any questions that come up between sessions. If there is something new you want to talk about, don’t rely on your memory. Write it down. If there are any relevant observations that come up during the week, write those down and share them at your next meeting. Your therapist needs to know about positive developments as well as negative ones.
Be an Active Participant
Your therapy session is about you. Participate! If there is something you want or don’t understand, ask about it. If you want more of something or less of something, let your therapist know. Understand that a therapist’s role is not to tell you what to do, but to help you make your own decisions. It’s about empowerment, not dependence. To help to get you to that place, a therapist will support you, not do the work for you. So, if you are given homework or suggestion on how to help yourself, try them. If they create positive results, continue them. If not, let your therapist know so that the two of you can come up with something that does work. If you want to get the most out of therapy, you have to be involved.
Commit To the Process
This means to come to therapy regularly and on time. If you only walk when the sun is shining, you won’t get very far. You have to come when you don’t feel like it, when you are in crisis, and on good days if you want to make progress. Understand that there will be days when you have huge breakthroughs and days when it seems like you are spinning your wheels. It’s a process. It will take time to get where you want to go. If you want to get the most out of therapy, commit to the process.
Know When It Will End Before You Start
Go into counseling with an end goal. When you like your therapist, it can get really tempting to just hang out and stay. After all, life is full of problems, right? Therapy could just be endless. As I said before, a therapist’s job is to help you to stand on your own feet. Enabling dependence is not helpful. When you have a clear therapeutic goal from the outset, it will help you to know when it’s time to go. When you are able to cope with less handholding and need less accountability, it’s time to stretch out the visits. When you are hitting your treatment goals consistently, it’s time to terminate the relationship.