How to Get the Most Out of Therapy
So, you’ve decided to go to therapy. Great choice! Seriously, I think everybody should go to therapy. Mental health is important for everyone, not just those of us who might need a bit of help with ours.
But, now that you’re going to therapy, the big question is this — How do you get the most out of your time with your therapist?
It’s a fair question. As important as therapy is, it can also be expensive and time consuming. As a result, you probably want to make the best use of your time with the professionals that you can. Very sensible.
Let’s talk about how to do that.
Make sure you’re with the right Therapist
This might seem obvious, but it’s also the single most important thing in this article. Finding the right therapist is absolutely vital, as is the relationship you build up with them over time. You need to trust them completely and be comfortable sharing everything that you need to with them. Therapists cannot work their magic with incomplete information and so it’s in your best interests to make sure you are willing to give them all the facts.
Don’t be afraid to try a few different therapists before deciding which one you want to build a longer-term relationship with. These people are professionals who only want the best for you, and you may even find some therapists who actively advise you to try other places to find the best possible care. Don’t worry, you’re not cheating on anyone, nor do you own any one therapist your loyalty. Your only commitment is to yourself and getting the best care and guidance you possibly can.
Turn up consistently
Therapy is not a one-shot fix. You need to commit to attending sessions regularly and consistently if you want to get the best results from your therapist. Incredible people though they are, even the best mental health professionals can’t help you when you don’t turn up.
By having regular sessions, the work you do during each meeting will layer on the work of previous sessions and begin to build up into progress. But you do need those layers. In the same way as you can’t learn to play the piano after one hour of tinkering with the ivories, you also can’t hope to make massive, long-lasting mental progress after just one session with a therapist.
Take time in between sessions
This may seem like it’s contradicting the last point, but it isn’t. Whilst it is vital to maintain a regular schedule of therapy, it is also important that you have time in between sessions to reflect on the things you discussed with your therapist and implement any strategies they many have given you.
Therapy is usually, although not always, all about talking. You talk through your thoughts, feelings, and issues with someone who knows what to say and do to help you. The problem is, if you haven’t had any time to think about the results of the previous sessions, you are far more likely to repeat yourself in subsequent appointments and eventually end up going around in circles.
To be clear, how long you take between sessions is entirely up to you, and most therapists will be able to advise you on what they think a sensible and effective regime would be. The right amount of time will be different for every person, and that’s absolutely fine. Just make sure that in the gaps between sessions, however long or short they may be, you take the time to sit back and reflect on your progress thus far, so that you go into your next appointment ready to continue on that positive path, instead of rehashing territory that may have already been covered.
Tell your Therapist what is and is not working for you
Just like in any good relationship, it is important to be open and honest with your therapist. Without those two things it is actually impossible for the professional to do their best work and help you in the most comprehensive and effective way that they can. In short, without your honesty, a therapist simply cannot do their job.
When I say honesty, I don’t just mean telling the truth about your personal issues and feelings. I also mean that you have to be open with your therapist about how their practice is working for you and what they could do to help you more. You might think that this may sound rude or ungrateful, but what is important to remember is that these people are professionals. It is their job to help you and anyone else who they may be treating. As a result, your honestly about things that do and do not work for you may not only help the therapist give you better care, but it may also help them give others better care too.
Don’t be afraid to tell your therapy providers exactly what you need from them to make you feel safe, comfortable and fulfilled during your sessions. Even when you tell them what isn’t working, they won’t be offended. They will probably be quite grateful.
Be curious about yourself, but don’t judge what you find
This one is really important. Therapy is all about delving into our own minds and characters in order to heal and become stronger and happier than before. By definition, this will mean investigating the very furthest corners of our feelings and thoughts, some of which may have been forgotten, and some of which may be dark, disturbing or uncomfortable. If that is the case, there is one thing that you need to remember. If you remember only one thing from having read this article, let it be this –
Whatever you find when in the throes of therapeutic self-discovery — it’s ok. Your therapist will be right there with you and will know how to help you deal with whatever you have realised or unearthed. You’re in safe hands and, though it may not seem like it at the time, whatever emotions you experience during times like this are vital and very constructive to the overall progress of your mental health journey.
Do not judge yourself because of what you say or do during therapy. If ever there was a place where any and all thoughts and feelings are ok, it is during a therapy session, when there’s a qualified professional right in front of you, just waiting to help you heal. The difficult things to say and feel are not just ok during therapy, they’re welcome. They show strength and progress. They are the heralds of good things to come.
So be kind to yourself. You’re doing great.
By Sean Bennett
DownTime is a service that connects people to great local therapists. Learn more about what we do at hellodowntime.com