The therapeutic relationship is unlike any other – it’s a unique space to discuss your deepest secrets, worries, and wishes with someone who won’t judge you. Your therapist will do their best to help you feel safe, comfortable, and ready for growth. But it can still be scary or intimidating to start therapy. Luckily, there are things you can do to make this process easier and ensure that you are making the most out of therapy. Read on for my 8 tips on how to make the most out of therapy.
1. Do your research to find the best therapist for you.
Therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. There are many types of therapists and therapies out there. Consider my tips on finding the right therapist.
2. Schedule sessions at a good time. The therapy session is a space for vulnerability and growth. And this space can be exhausting! If you can, try to schedule your sessions during a time when you know you will be fully present with your therapist. Distractions, work deadlines, fatigue, and even hunger can all make it difficult to open up and discuss difficult thoughts and feelings.
3. Identify your goals for therapy.
Most people come to their first session with some idea of what they want to address in therapy, but don’t always know where to start. As you begin to discuss these issues in therapy, you can collaborate with your therapist on what specific goals you want to achieve as well as how you will be measuring progress toward these goals.
4. Come to session with topics for your agenda. While it is fine to use your therapy time to vent about your day or week, it can be helpful to come prepared with an idea of specific things to discuss in session that are related to your overall treatment goals. An identified agenda will make sure that you and your therapist cover the important issues without running out of time. I usually recommend that my clients keep a journal so they can keep track of their goals, between-session homework assignments, affirmations and coping statements, or simply just jot down their thoughts and agenda items for our upcoming sessions.
5. Be honest – with your therapist and yourself!
The things we discuss in therapy can bring up many different feelings, and sometimes clients avoid topics out of shame. I often tell clients that if they aren’t honest with me about what they are feeling or experiencing, then I’m not actually helping them – I’m helping someone who doesn’t exist. Even though it can be scary or embarrassing to be open about difficulties or setbacks you are experiencing, a good therapist will not judge you – and will help you learn not to judge yourself, as well!
6. Let your therapist know when they get it wrong. Therapists are human, too, and sometimes we say things that bother our clients. Rather than harboring resentment or avoiding the situation altogether, use the therapy space to discuss these issues with your therapist. A well-trained and experienced therapist will be open to hearing your concerns and will work to repair any damage that may have occurred in the therapeutic relationship.
7. Do the work outside of session.
Most people attend therapy only weekly, spending approximately 45-60 minutes with their therapist. To make the most of therapy, make sure that the therapy session isn’t the *only* time you are working on your goals! Part of your session agenda should include a discussion of your homework to work on in between your sessions. This homework gives you the opportunity to practice specific skills or strategies that you are learning in therapy, such as mindfulness, assertiveness, noticing and reframing unhelpful thoughts, or exposure and response prevention tasks.
8. Make room for ALL your emotions and don’t be afraid to have fun! Making room for growth means making room for and allowing all emotions – the painful and the joyful! So often we think of therapy as a place to only process and work on “negative” issues that it's easy to forget that therapy is also a place to experience and celebrate successes. Share your joys and wins with your therapist, and remember that it's okay to laugh in session, too!
I hope these tips are helpful as you begin your therapy journey! Stay tuned for more tips on how parents can help their child make the most out of therapy and support their child's progress.