How to get the most out of counseling

While having a good therapist is important, being an active client is just as important.  Your participation, motivation, and commitment will greatly impact not only the effectiveness of your therapy, but the efficiency as well. If you enter into therapy with a commitment to follow these points, you will likely have a very positive therapy experience.

 

Increase your awareness of your presenting problem.

Think about each area in your life and how they have been affected: emotional, physical, mental, educational, occupational, relational, and spiritual.

 

Review your history.

Remember when and how the problem first came up, the attempts you've made to solve or cope with it and with what results; how the severity has fluctuated over time; factors or events that you see having contributed to or maintained the problem.

 

Consider what you hope to accomplish.

If you had a magic wand that could transform your life to your realistic ideal, what would your life look like? Write down your goals for therapy. Make them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

 

Clarify and strengthen your motivation.

Write down the pros and cons for making the effort to change. Challenge the cons and the weight you place on them. Write out the potential consequences of not changing.

BEFORE OR AT THE BEGINNING OF THERAPY

DURING SESSIONS

Be open.

What you've been doing probably hasn't been working or you wouldn't be seeking help. If you have a therapist you trust, be open to new ways of thinking, relating, and behaving. You may be asked to do some things that feel awkward or uncomfortable, or you may not fully "get it," but hang in there and give it a try.

 

Be transparent.

Be honest and allow the therapist to see your true thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Take the risk to be vulnerable. Give her the full picture, not the edited version.

 

Give feedback.

Let the therapist know how you are experiencing the sessions and your therapeutic relationship, what is helpful or unhelpful, where you see and don't see progress, and any concerns that arise. This will help your therapist better meet your needs.

 

Think critically.

Don't rely on or wait for the therapist to make all the connections for you. You know yourself better than anyone. Weigh what is being discussed in session. Examine if and how it fits currently and/or in the past. Progress can be made much more quickly if you can help connect the dots. Also, share and examine your discomfort when it arises in session. Your discomfort can be very revealing and useful.

BETWEEN SESSIONS

Prioritize your therapy and growth.

You may have to make some sacrifices in order to devote your resources of time, effort, and money to therapy. Our desires and responsibilities can pull us in a dozen directions and it is easy to become distracted from our goals. You may have to give up some free time, give up some comforts, or miss out on things here and there. Remember the sacrifices are temporary, yet the investment can lead to lasting benefits.

 

Commit to the homework assignments.

The test of therapy is how it impacts your life outside of therapy. Homework is designed to facilitate the transfer of in-session insight into out-of-session action. It is surprising how many people are willing to commit to the cost of therapy without committing to the effort necessary to make the financial investment worthwhile.

 

Review your progress.

Take note of what changes you see as well as what challenges youve faced since the last session. Be prepared to bring something to put on the agenda for your next session.