So, let’s talk about therapy...
If you’re spending the time and money to see a therapist, you definitely want to make the most out of it. Therapy is a time where everything can be about what you would like it to be. You step away from your family, work, other responsibilities and are able to focus on how you’re feeling and your own personal development.
However, knowing where to even begin can be challenging. Some individuals express that they are anxious, but that’s okay. In fact, let’s acknowledge why you’re anxious.
Is this your first time in a while talking about personal issues?
Are you worried about being judged?
Are you concerned about what the process of counseling will be like?
Did you have a poor experience in the past?
Is this a big step for you to take?
Not sure how to even start the conversation?
These questions can cause you anxiety about the first session or hinder you from even scheduling the first session. However, these are great, honest statements to begin with.
How about, “I’m nervous right now and not sure what to expect.” That’s perfectly okay; a therapist will walk with you on your journey.
In regard to not knowing what to expect, this article will introduce some important tips and recommendations to help you get the most out of therapy.
The point is for you to focus on the experience and your time on the couch getting to know yourself without wasting any time.
1. Know Your Reasons for Going
Having a focused list of reasons why you want to go to therapy will help keep your sessions on track. Think about what drove you to finally schedule that session. Why now versus a month ago?
Before you even start going, try to identify sources of your emotional pain or stress.
Do some self-reflection and have an idea or list of items that you want to cover with your therapist before every session.
Occasionally, individuals find it difficult to recall details of an argument, negative thoughts, when they experience mood changes or a situation that came up days before the session.
This method will prevent you from having to take the time to recall the events that occurred during the week. Therapy sessions are typically an hour so you want to make them as productive as possible.
2. Choose Your Therapist
Not all therapists are going to be the right fit for you or your personality. The relationship between you and your therapist is very different from the one between you and your primary care doctor.
Your doctor focuses on your body, while your therapist focuses on your brain.
You should feel a connection to the therapist you choose. You should feel comfortable opening up to them, understood, and be able to trust the therapist.
As you start looking for a therapist, don’t settle for the first one you find. Shop around a bit, read their bio, and understand that every therapist has a different style. Find a balance that is right for you—perhaps you need more time in sessions to think and process or you want a therapist with a style that is more direct.
Once you find and meet with a therapist you like, it’s recommended to stick with them and be consistent rather than bouncing around. This will allow both of you to have the opportunity to build trust and see real progress.
3. Don’t Be Late
With therapists being more assessable for virtual sessions, this is still just as important. Typically, sessions are 50 minutes. You won’t be able to get the most out of therapy if you’re frantic from running in 10 to 15 minutes late. Your mind will not be in the right place; you may need time to get something to drink, use the restroom, or quiet the dogs down.
Be sure to not schedule any commitments too close to your therapy session. This will ensure you’re able to get mentally prepared, have time to check your WIFI connection, log on/arrive on time, and feel ready to go.
If you prepare roughly 10 minutes prior, you won’t feel like your thoughts are scrambled or stressed from running behind.
4. Don’t Filter Yourself
Many individuals are used to living daily life with a filter in certain environments such as at work, with children, and in public space. We hardly say our inner thoughts or how we feel about something for fear of being judged or criticized. We do this to maintain the social order and not offend anyone.
However, your therapy session is the time and space to remove the filter. For the hour you are in therapy, you no longer have to worry about saying the right thing or restrict how you are feeling.
Don’t be afraid to say what you need to say, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. As well, don’t apologize if you cry during the session. Remember, it’s your space and time to let it out. Eventually, you’ll find it cathartic to get those feelings off your chest. You’ll start to look forward to therapy because of the release it gives you.
5. Set Goals
Remember that you are in therapy for a reason. Whether that is to improve self-esteem or confidence, decreasing anxiety, addressing unhealthy habits, or repair an unstable relationship.
Collaborate with your therapist to identify and establish goals early in the process. This will help guide the direction of sessions and you can keep track of your progress over time. Don’t worry, goals are not set in stone and can be re-evaluated and modified if needed.
The goals should center around what changes you want to make. For example:
· Maybe you want to improve your self-care. Your goal could be adding in thirty minutes of exercise every other day.
· Maybe you want to feel more comfortable talking to the opposite sex. In this case, your goal could be going on one date this month.
Your therapist will help you choose the goals that are appropriate for you. Having a therapist will help you stick to your goals because you’ll have someone keeping you accountable. You’ll want to be able to come in for your next session with good news.
6. Be Prepared to Do the Work
Be prepared to do the work in and outside of sessions. Yes, I’m talking about homework, but I prefer to call it between-session tasks. Your therapist may assign a task or challenge to help you practice what you are learning in sessions.
Practice makes perfect, right? Similar to any activity—you practice an instrument like guitar, strengthen your skills by trying a new recipe in the kitchen, and begin a new job/career after some training.
In order to get the most out of therapy, take the time to apply what you are learning into your daily life. That is another way to measure your progress and work toward your goals.
7. Keep a Journal
If you keep a journal, you will have something concrete to refer back to whether it’s a frustrating event, thoughts regarding an issue, or your feelings. Your journal can act as an emotion calendar, reminding you how you felt on certain days.
You can even bring your journal to therapy sessions with you and refer to it if you forgot what you wanted to address.
8. Understand Therapy is a Collaboration
Therapy is an experience and opportunity for exploration. See it as a collaboration rather than expecting to be told what to do.
Work together to establish goals; ensure that sessions are going in a direction you want it to. Furthermore, check in and talk about the process of therapy while you are in therapy.
Reflect on the process. What is going well or what would work better?
Is the session time inconvenient or difficult to stick to? Let your therapist know so you can reschedule at a better time.
Did you have a question about something you both discussed in the previous session? Ask questions for clarification.
Now You Know How to Get the Most Out of Therapy Sessions
Remember that therapy is one of the best things you can do for yourself—if you take advantage of the resource and make the most out of it. Likewise, mental health is every bit as important as your physical health.
Your therapist can become one of the most important people in your life, so be sure to choose one carefully. When it comes to how to get the most out of therapy, ultimately, it all comes down to how much you’re willing to put into it. But with this list, you’ll be more than ready to tackle your next therapy session!
Ready to Be Your Best Self?
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why everyone should go to counseling sessions.
If you’re ready to be a happier, healthier you, Naya Clinics would love to guide you through your journey. Learn more about our services to see what kind of counseling would benefit you the most. To book our online counseling and coaching services visit: Nayaclinics.com/book-online.
Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university , Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com
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