10 tips for making the most out of therapy
Most everyone knows therapy is good for you. However, not everyone knows how to make the best out of your experience from beginning to end. Therapists are crucial to the way we look at life. They help us grapple through life’s biggest challenges and toughest curveballs. They love to help guide us to our own answers to some of our toughest questions. They help alleviate signs of anxiety, fear, sadness, and loss.
Some find this relationship soothing and comforting. Others have a more difficult time achieving what they want out of their therapist. Why is this? There are two main pressing factors why therapy helps some more than others. One main factor is the quality of the relationship between the client and the therapist. The second is the client’s own work ethic and dedication to the work outside of therapy. This doesn’t alleviate therapists from doing their part, of course. Therapy is a collaborative process. While therapists do a great deal, therapists cannot do all of the work for you. You have to contribute equally to the process for it to become mutually beneficial.
Moreover, some people might feel at a loss when the thought of therapy comes to mind. Therapy might even feel like a complete and total mystery. You might ask yourself, “What should I talk about? I don’t have anything going on in my life? Or, “What if they think I’m stupid for having so many problems and issues? Or, “I don’t feel comfortable talking about my deep rooted problems with a complete and total stranger!” Or even, “How do I know if I’m getting better or seeing results?”
Whether you are new to therapy or you have had a therapist for years, there are things you can start to think about and put into action. The following will help you make the most out of your therapy per session, as well as long-term and in life as a whole. Below are 10 tips for making the most out of your therapy.
1. Choose carefully
However pressing your current situation might be, it is not a reason to rush your search to find the right therapist that works for you. First, put in some decent research time to help you get exactly what you want out of your therapist. Make sure you know what your focus is. Then, see if that office specializes in or has a therapist on staff that has experience with that issue. Last, do not be afraid to ask lots of questions in your first session! Treat it like a job interview. Similarly, you are interviewing them just as much as they are identifying how they can best serve you. If you are unsure after the first session, try it out a few times. A good rule of thumb is to give it three sessions with one therapist and then make your decision.
2. View therapy as a collaboration
It is important to note that therapy is a two way street and is interactive. Therapy involves the dedication and commitment of both individuals for success. This is necessary for any breakthroughs to result. Also, therapy is a process and gets better over longer periods of time. Rather than a sprint, therapy is more like a marathon. The therapist and the individual work together and participate equally in the work at hand to get to the finish line. Identify the things you need to make this relationship work for you. Then, find a way to communicate these with your therapist. For example, identify how much time you have to complete the assignments they might give you. Identify what might be holding you back in progressing and ask for help or clarification if something confuses you. It does not serve either you or your therapist if you pretend you can do everything on your own. Ultimately treat it as a trustworthy partnership and own when you have no idea what you are doing. Ask questions and be patient with yourself. They are there to help you specifically get through it with ease and peace of mind.
3. Schedule sessions at a good time
Scheduling your sessions is an important task to think about before diving into therapy. Ask yourself, “Can I fully commit to this 45 minute-long session this time every week?” If you have any hesitation, pick a different time! You also want to think about how much time you allow yourself before and after the session. You want to be present during the session and allow yourself ample time to process and reflect on your thoughts afterwards. Of course, there is always flexibility in schedules and times. If you have to miss a session at any time, call or email your therapist and see when you can reschedule. It is always better to reach out beforehand to let them know you need to reschedule.
4. Say anything in therapy
Remember, your therapist took a confidentiality vow before going into practice. They are legally bound to protect and disclose everything you say during session. As long as you do not make a claim to imminently hurt yourself or others, they are sworn to secrecy. This means you can say whatever you feel and not worry about it going anywhere. You should use this to your advantage! Even further, you do not need to censor yourself in therapy out of fear of judgment or appearing impolite. Your therapist is not there to judge you. On the contrary, your therapist is there to make you feel seen and heard. Their main goal is to help you dissect your truest and deepest thoughts, emotions, and feelings. In doing so, you help pave the way towards real, lasting progress and eventual real life change.
5. Continue the Psychological work outside of sessions
You want to make sure that the therapy in your session gets applied to your life outside those office doors. In doing so, you make inner progress in achieving your best self. You also prove to yourself and your therapist that what you both spoke about is working. Ultimately, this is what you both want - to acknowledge and realize the work is impacting your life in a positive way.
6. Set markers for change
It is best to set markers for change with your therapist so you don’t lose your motivation for going. These are goals you and your therapist agree upon for your therapy sessions. Try and establish some behavioral, emotional, or attitudinal markers you can observe. Then, record these and make a plan to discuss them together to set yourself up for success. Markers can act like signposts. Signposts tell you which direction you are heading. Also, they let you know if you need to change directions or keep doing what you are doing.
7. Have an order of operations
During your sessions with your carefully chosen therapist, have an agenda of what to discuss. Try writing this out before communicating it during your time together. You might try listing out the things you want to discuss first, second, and third to keep yourself organized with your thoughts. If you need help organizing your list of operations, you can always ask your therapist. Additionally, try knocking out the business stuff first. Then discuss any issues you may have with therapy or your therapist's way of doing things. This step is crucial because if these go unnoticed, they could heavily impact the work you two are trying to do together. Finally, ask any questions weighing on your psyche. The key is to form a bond of trust between you and your therapist. If something comes up you feel called to talk about, talk about it. This might raise awareness about your last session together, the way you want to move forward, or anything else. This will substantially improve the bond between you and your therapist in the long run.
8. Set boundaries about therapy
Set proper boundaries for yourself around whom to talk to about therapy. Boundary setting is one of the key takeaways when undergoing talk therapy. It is important to be selective around who to trust with this personal information. Unless you are interested in hearing others’ opinions about your personal development choices, we recommend keeping it between you and your therapist. Therapy is your time.
9. Build a more helpful and realistic narrative and choose your beliefs consciously
This is something that you and your therapist will likely work on together. Building a more helpful and realistic narrative means learning how to understand and talk about your situation, thoughts, feelings, and life. Understanding and evaluating unhelpful beliefs impacts the way you think about your self-worth and your confidence. What you believe in is often indicative of what you think about. Which then of course, affects how you live your life. When you choose to be mindful about those beliefs, and devise more effective responses to unhelpful ones, it often serves you in the long run.
10. Savor the process
Therapy can be exceptionally impactful, transformative, and a beautiful journey. Ultimately, therapy’s job is to help you meet your goals. It offers a new way of looking at yourself and the world around you in a clear, conscious, and positive way. Soak in this personal development process. Remember to make a commitment to yourself to take it all in. Finally, reflect on the insights, skills, and enjoy the ride.
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