Therapy can be very effective for many people who are looking to address issues that have been holding them back, develop a deeper understanding of themselves and to make important improvements in their lives.
Here are 4 Tips to help you get the most out of your therapy experience:
1. Spend some time collecting your thoughts before the session
Imagine that you are preparing for an important meeting at work. You’d surely take the time to gather your thoughts and prepare an agenda. You don’t have to have it all mapped out, but it can be helpful to spend a little time thinking about some goals for the sessions, about any patterns or themes that you are noticing in your daily life or with your interactions with others, important thoughts or feelings that you have been experiencing, anything that particularly resonated with you from a previous session, or anything from your past that has been on your mind and may be influencing some of your current experiences. Therapy can feel much more valuable if you take the time to reflect on what you’d like to address and what you’d like to get out of each session.
2. Be prepared to take a risk
With individual therapy, your therapist wants to create a safe environment, free of judgment and full of respect. At first, it can be very difficult to begin to open up and share your innermost thoughts and feelings with someone. Taking these kinds of emotional risks can feel really scary at first, but they really do pay off. In allowing yourself to be truly open, you are creating the conditions for deep self-understanding and change. It is a very powerful feeling to allow yourself to be truly open and seen by another.
3. Change is hard- be prepared to work at it
Change is hard work! Some people come to therapy hoping for a quick fix or expecting the therapist to wave a magic wand to make all of the problems disappear. Your therapist is more like a consultant than a fixer. Your therapist can ask the right questions, make observations and suggestions, and help you discover new ways of looking at something, or offer some helpful tools or strategies for dealing with symptoms or approaching life situations that you are facing. But in the end, it is up to you practice what you have learned, try different strategies and to implement this change. You are probably only spending about one hour per week in therapy…so those other 167 hours between sessions have to count. If your therapist assigns you readings or homework between sessions, do it! This helps to move you forward and keeps you focused on your goals.
4. Practice makes perfect
Many times the things that are bringing your to therapy are part of a long-standing pattern that has been years in the making. It takes a lot of conscious effort and practice to learn how to make lasting changes and approach things in a new way. Don’t expect it to come naturally at first. Like with any new skill, it takes time and practice before you get the hang of it. Be patient with yourself and keep at it!