People go to therapy because they have a problem. They are in pain, and want relief fast!
Therapy is an investment. It takes time and money, so naturally you want to make the most out of therapy. Here are some tips to help you do just that!
Get Clear on Why You’re There
It’s hard to solve your problems if you aren’t sure what they are. What’s more, if you don’t have a well defined goal, it will be very hard to hit it. So come with an overall goal for therapy. This will also help you to know when you’re done.
Pay Attention In Between Sessions
I typically start session with a check in. “How’s it going?” and “How are you?” aren’t social greetings or niceties. They are check in questions. I want to know how did the time between sessions go. Was it better, worse, or different than the week before? Are you feeling hopeful or discouraged? What did you do to make things different? What were the results?
If you’re not paying attention, you will not have the self-awareness required to help your therapist help you. Paying attention to what’s happening is the single most important skill for progress. If you do nothing else, cultivate this skill.
Be an Active Participant
Passive clients sit back and wait for the therapist to do something to them. This doesn’t work so well because your therapist can’t read your mind and is not there to entertain you.
It’s far more effective to take an active role in therapy. For example, if you are focusing on being more assertive, you might start by telling your therapist something like, “I am feeling accomplished. I took your advice and practiced looking people in the eye, smiling, greeting them, or making small talk. It was very hard at first. I couldn’t do it the first few times, but it got easier, and now it’s not even a challenge. I’d like to take that further and be able to talk about tough subjects with people who are close to me. Do you have any suggestions?”
Another suggestion is, “I’ve been avoiding talking about my breakup because I didn’t think I was strong enough. I’ve been using my emotional regulation skills. It’s still a struggle, but I feel confident that if it’s a hard session, I’ll be able to manage it. Can we go there today?”
Focus On Yourself
Therapy is one of the few times when you get to be completely self-indulgent and talk about you, you, you. For that fifty minutes, you are the most important person. Enjoy it! Don’t waste it by talking about what other people are doing unless that is impacting you.
It’s okay to vent now and then, but if you don’t know how you are feeling or what you want, maybe that should be the topic of discussion. If your life consists of talking about what other people are doing, maybe it’s time to focus on creating a social life or fulfilling dreams for you.
Do Your Homework
Most of the progress in therapy happens between sessions. It’s all you! If you are not doing homework, your progress will be very limited. Think about it. If you were learning a foreign language, would you only practice on class days? Of course not!
Self-Evaluate and Self-Correct
The point of therapy is to get you to a place where you no longer need the therapist’s support. So, as time goes on, you should be taking over some of the things that a therapist does, like evaluating how well you’re doing and self correcting.
The stages of learning are: 1) you don’t know what you don’t know. 2) you have a clue, but you can’t do it. 3) you can do it if you focus and concentrate. 4) you can do it without thinking about it.
If you are not self-evaluating, you will remain at stage 2. If you are not self-correcting, you will stay at stage 3.
Spill All of It!
Hiding things from your therapist is like tying her hands behind her back. It hampers her ability to help you. It’s okay to move at your own speed, but I’ve have heard of clients who say, “I didn’t tell my therapist how awful I was feeling because I didn’t want to look bad” or “I didn’t tell my therapist what I did because I felt too ashamed.”
A good therapist will not judge you. You’re not going to look bad or lose her respect. You’re there for help. She’s not expecting you to be perfect or perky and entertaining. She’s expecting you to be real.
Do you want something different? Love something? Did you have a breakthrough? Speak up! You are the client. This is your time. You know what you need. Your therapist can’t deliver unless you speak up. It’s okay to ask for what you want and share your concerns or triumphs.
Take Credit For Your Improvements
Taking credit for your improvements helps you to build confidence. Win, lose, or draw, it’s all you. You’ve got the power. Own it.
Therapy can be a drag or a useful and stimulating time. It’s really up to you. Why not make the most out of therapy?