Talk is cheap; talk therapy isn’t. Even if the cost of sessions is fully covered by insurance, most people want to gain the most benefits from their time in therapy.
Here are five ways to make the most of therapy:
Writing in a journal is incredibly beneficial to therapeutic work. Journaling can help us become more self-aware, focus our thoughts, and remember important details. Designate a specific notebook or journal as your “therapy journal.” In between sessions, write about anything that you had a strong reaction to, that is keeping you up at night, or that is weighing on your heart or mind. These topics are great to discuss in your next therapy session. Right before your session, take a few minutes to journal. Write about what you are currently feeling, what you hope to accomplish in the next session, or even what some of your fears are regarding the topic you wish to discuss. After the session, take some time to reflect on the session. How do you feel after the session? What was the biggest takeaway? What do you want to remember from the session? Are there any actions you want to take as a result of what you learned?
2) Be consistent.
Weekly appointments are the standard among psychotherapist because it’s effective. Perhaps most importantly, weekly sessions allow the relationship between you and your therapist to grow. The safety, trust, and reliability that goes into the therapeutic relationship is fundamental for the therapeutic work to happen. It is much more difficult to build a relationship every other week or even once a month. Additionally, a consistent weekly session ensures a consistent rate of growth. Much like music lessons, weekly sessions mean you are learning new skills and growing each week. In the time between sessions, there is time to implement and practice these skills and reflect on the experience you gained in the previous session.
3) Be honest.
Bring your whole self to session with integrity. We all tend to edit ourselves. We present to others the parts we feel are the best of us. Truly therapeutic work requires we bring the parts of ourselves we hide-from the world and even ourselves-into the room. This may look like honestly reporting how much we actually drink, how sad we really are, an affair we had years ago, or that we manipulate others to feel accepted. In the safety of therapy, these parts can be seen, acknowledged, and held in a way that can dissolve the shame surrounding them. This also helps your therapist get a full, authentic understanding of you as a client. Withholding information from your therapist is a lot like baking a cake without all of the ingredients. The result may still look like a cake, but you probably won’t be happy with how it turned out.
4) Ask for resources.
The time in between therapy sessions can be therapeutic too! Ask your therapist for activities, journal prompts, or books to read outside of therapy. This is a great way to gain more understanding or insight into yourself or a particular topic you may have been working on in therapy. (Bonus: write down any thoughts or reactions you may have while reading or completing the activity in your journal to discuss with your therapist next time!).
5) Have the right therapist.
Finally, and perhaps most important, make sure you are working with the right person. Truly healing therapy can only happen in safety. Of course, it takes time to develop trust with your therapist, so give the relationship time to develop. You should however, feel comfortable with your therapist in the first few sessions. If the sense of comfort isn’t there, or if you have seen your therapist for more than 10 sessions and don’t feel that sense of safety, it may be time to consider if that is the right therapist for you. Additionally, if you feel you haven’t been making progress in several sessions, it is also cause for concern. Bring any issues of trust or progress up in your sessions with your therapist. They may be able to help identify the issue and resolve it, or refer you on to someone else who may be a better fit.