So you’ve decided to start counseling, or maybe you’ve been going to counseling for years. Take a look at these 10 Ways to Get the Most out of Therapy:
1. Keep a journal for all things therapy and bring it to your sessions:
A journal is a great place for you to continue processing after a session, between sessions, or during session. Keeping one journal specifically for your therapeutic journey can also help show you the transformation that you have made.
3. Write down important thoughts and phrases while with your therapists – and at other times.
This one can be especially helpful during sessions; maybe your therapist says something that really sticks out to you-make a note about it so you don’t forget. Then, you can look at your journal throughout the week and be reminded of that important thing you realized, that nugget of truth you need to meditate on, that encouragement you need to remember before a difficult conversation, etc.
2. Make a list of things to discuss with your counselor between sessions
You walk out of your therapy session and think shoot, I can’t believe I forgot to talk about… write it down! You get in an argument with your significant other and just can’t figure out why what they said bothered you so much…write it down! You’re stuck in traffic and you remember something that has really been bothering you…wait till you park and write it down! In all seriousness, writing down what you feel is most important to talk about between your sessions can help to make each session productive. During your few minutes in the waiting room you can look back over your list and prioritize which items are most pressing or most important to get to during session.
4. Set goals for counseling-and stick to them!
At the beginning of your first session the therapist usually asks something like: “What are your goals for counseling?” It’s important to set goals so that your therapist knows how to structure sessions and promote the positive change you need. Sticking to your goals can help you maintain focus between sessions and during sessions. It may also be important to revisit goals periodically with your therapist as you change, situations change, and your needs change.
5. Ask questions
If you think of a question about the session, what you are experiencing, or about therapy in general feel free to ask! Questions are great, and getting answers can help to relieve worries or stress that have been burdening you. Also remember that sessions are a safe place to ask questions and to wonder about things–judgment free.
6. Talk about what really bothering you at the beginning of the session
This is a hard one. So often clients are worried or embarrassed about something that feels huge and they put off talking about it until the last ten minutes of the session. This may feel safe, because if you feel embarrassed or insecure about the subject you know you can leave right away; however, this doesn’t allow enough time to work through the item. If you find yourself looking at the clock, itching to say something, but waiting until the minute hand hits the nine, take deep breath and let it out. Just say what you’ve been so anxiously holding in. If you know going into a session that there is something you need to share but don’t want to share, take a moment in the waiting room to prepare yourself to share it in the first five minutes. Really, once it’s out there you’ll feel relieved.
7. Don’t be passive, take control of your counseling
This is your time, your session, and your life–take charge! Often we think therapy is a quick and easy fix, I go to a few sessions someone tells me what I’m doing wrong and I fix it or the therapist fixes me. This isn’t true, therapy is work, good work, and we have to take charge to do the work ourselves. Taking charge can look like: completing your homework between sessions, being actively involved in scheduling your next session, bringing up your goals in session, etc.
8. Be honest, therapy is a no-judgment zone, lying to your therapist only hurts you
Lying to your therapist is like telling your significant other that you’re not allergic to gluten when you are. Now, when your significant other makes you a pasta dinner complete with homemade garlic bread, bruschetta, and a strawberry shortcake dessert to celebrate your birthday you have two options: eat the gluten and end up sick or come clean and end up embarrassed.
9. Do the work outside of session: you get out what you put in
This includes doing homework, reviewing notes from sessions, and applying positive change to your daily life. While from your therapist’s perspective the session is more like Vegas (that is, what you say in session stays in session), you have to take your session home with you and continue to do the work outside of session.
10. Sit with the question and say what comes up (even if it doesn’t make any sense)
Your therapist asks you a question you don’t know how to answer, instead of saying, “I don’t know”, sit with the question. Give yourself time to processes what’s going on. Take a moment to think about what could be the answer and say whatever comes to mind, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. Why do we do this? Because sometimes your brain knows more about what you need than you do and this allows you the opportunity to talk about and process what you need to talk about.