Making the decision to start seeing a therapist is a huge step forward. Regardless of whether you’ve been struggling with your mental health, therapy is a great option. It provides you with a neutral party, a safe space to talk, and a resource for learning more about yourself.
What if you’ve never been to therapy before? Or what if you’ve struggled with feeling like you’re "connecting" with your therapist?
It might be time to brush up on how to get the most out of therapy sessions. While your therapist is doing their part, you still need to "put in the work," so to speak. That means making every effort to make therapy work for you.
Not sure how? No problem. Keep reading to learn our top tips for how to get the most out of a therapy session.
Too many people enter therapy with specific ideas of what therapy "should" be. This might be based on media representations of therapy sessions, perspectives from people who’ve never been to therapy, or even the experiences of friends and family.
Therapy is an individual and customized process. What works for someone else might not work for you. You and your therapist will put together a treatment plan that makes sense for your goals.
When you start going to therapy, rest assured that your therapist has a process. You need to trust that process and be patient, even if it seems different from what you had in mind.
One problem that many people have during therapy is not meshing with their therapist.
This is normal. All therapists are different. They all have their own experiences, educations, specialties, and treatment methods (more on those later).
It’s okay to realize that your current therapist isn’t right for you. When you’re looking for a therapist, feel free to ask about things that concern you.
Many underrepresented groups or individuals with specific concerns feel more comfortable with therapists who are openly accepting and experienced with issues that they face. These include racism, homophobia, and transphobia, or alternative relationship styles that some therapists may not be familiar with.
Meanwhile, other therapists are more experienced with trauma, personality disorders, or relationship problems. If you don’t feel like your therapist is a good match, they will understand if you need to seek out someone else.
Not all therapy methods are alike. Most people start with talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. Some people need something more specific to either work alongside their first therapy method or replace it entirely.
If you’re worried that your current method isn’t giving you the right results, ask your therapist for suggestions on what may work better based on your goals.
Both your choice of therapist and therapy method boils down to communication.
Your therapist has your best interests at heart, but they’re not a mind reader. If you have specific intentions, needs, or concerns about therapy, you need to talk to them. They don’t know if something isn’t working unless you keep them informed.
Learn to be open and honest with your therapist when you’re discussing your treatment plan. They won’t be offended if you need to switch your focus and it helps them adjust your treatment plan.
If you’re seeking therapy for a specific concern, it’s a good idea to set clear goals when you get started, perhaps even during your first therapy session.
Keep in mind that these goals may change as you progress through your therapy journey. With that in mind, setting goals allows you to determine if you’re making progress or if you need to make adjustments.
Goals can be as loose as "feeling better" or as specific as "learn to set boundaries around family members." Make goals that work for you.
Vulnerability is hard. When you’ve been conditioned to close yourself off, opening up to a stranger is a challenge.
Your therapist can’t help you if you aren’t willing to be honest with them. For you to face your challenges, you need to open up about them.
As you progress through your sessions, you’ll discover that it gets easier to open up, but you have to make that effort.
You need to pick a time for your therapy sessions that fits your lifestyle.
Many therapists prefer that you pick consistent days and times so you can establish a routine and have a "therapy mindset" when you come in. Pick a schedule that doesn’t conflict with work, school, or any other responsibilities so you don’t have to skip sessions.
It’s also good to pick a time that allows you to devote all of your attention to your session. You don’t want to be distracted and you don’t want therapy to throw off the rest of your day.
While a lot of your work will happen during your therapy sessions, you also need to apply what you’ve learned to your life outside of the therapist’s office.
Many therapists assign "homework." This isn’t like the homework you’d do in school. They may ask you to practice coping mechanisms, start setting boundaries, or work on mindfulness and lifestyle changes between sessions.
This work is hard at first, and your therapist will understand if it takes a few sessions before you’re able to implement these things. But if you make an active effort, you’ll see better results.
Therapy is what you make of it. If you want to figure out how to get the most out of therapy, you need to talk to your therapist and do some introspection.
It might feel awkward when you start seeing a therapist. Once you figure out what works for you, though, you’ll start seeing the progress that you’re looking for.
If you’re seeking a new therapist, we want to meet you. At Williamsburg Therapy Group, we have a variety of experienced mental health professionals with a variety of unique backgrounds.
Book an appointment today so we can set you up with your perfect match.