Come with an agenda
When we go to the doctor we know our time with them is limited. Knowing this, most of us plan to ask specific questions to get what we need from the appointment. The same should apply to therapy. To get the most of your time, come with an idea of what your top three or four discussion items are. Let your therapist know what top priority on your agenda is. That way you get the most out of your time.
If your therapist asked you to do a self help exercise outside of session, do it! Studies show clients who do self help assignments outside of session benefit and progress more in therapy than those who do not (Beck,1995).
Understand how long your therapy session is so you have a chance to summarize your own ideas and the therapist can do the same. This allows you to gauge yourself, rather than suddenly running out of time and feeling pressured at the end. Therapists will have a hard time giving you quality feedback if the information is rushed.
Give Therapy a Chance to Work….but if it’s not, say something
Understand therapy is not a quick fix. Our problems took time to develop and will also take time to change. Give your therapist feedback on what is and isn’t working for you. Just like you would tell your doctor if a medication isn’t working, you should tell your therapist that you’d like to try a different approach. I can’t tell you how many times I hear new clients say they didn’t benefit from the last time they received therapy. Most clients never said anything though. It’s an investment of your time, be an advocate for yourself!
Be on Time and Consistent
Being on time for your sessions ensures you get the maximum time with your therapist. Clients who arrive late or come inconsistently see fewer benefits. Coming consistently allows more concentrated time delving into deeper issues and less time is needed to “catch up” the therapist on life’s events.
Do your best to keep appointments. Remember when you made the appointment you felt it was a priority to return, so do what you need to, to make it happen. Occasionally crises arise and we have to change our appointments. This is understandable; however try not to let daily living or forgetfulness get in the way of you getting better. Write down you appointment time. This time has been set aside especially for you so do your best to take full advantage of it.
P.S. When you’re feeling depressed, anxious or stressed, rather than avoiding therapy, embrace it. This is the best time to go because the therapist can see how you’re feeling and help you in the moment.
Ask for input
Ask your therapist for a strategy to deal with presenting issues. Write down any suggestions they give because you’re more likely to remember them and use them. Therapy can be more than just a storytelling session by the client. It can be an opportunity to get expert, unbiased input to manage issues. Remember to share as many details as needed but only those necessary. Sharing in this manner allows the therapist to understand what you’re saying but also gives time for feedback. Be open to new suggestions. Listen to the suggestions rather than planning the next thing you’ll say.
Ask for clarification if needed
Nothing is more frustrating than not understanding what someone is saying. Often professionals will talk in fancy terms. If the therapist isn’t using language you understand or are explaining a concept you just don’t get, don’t be afraid to speak up. It’ll be better for you in the long run and you’re the customer. If you don’t ask, you won’t feel comfortable returning.
Therapy can be a wonderful experience if you’re a savvy consumer.