Ten Tips For Getting the Most Out of Therapy

I am sometimes asked whether there are specific things that can be done to help augment the experience of coming for therapy or to maximize potential for change in therapy.  The short answer is yes!

My personal belief is that you get out of counselling what you put into it.  Sometimes, however it isn’t exactly clear to people what they could do that would help.  Counselling and psychotherapy have traditionally been a somewhat mysterious process!

Here are my top tips for getting the most out of your therapy experience:

  1. Ask Yourself: “Am I ready for counselling?” One way of answering this question is to decide whether you actually want counselling.  If you can say yes to this, it’s a good start.  Counselling tends to work best when you are attending voluntarily and when you are an active participant in the process.  If you’re going to therapy to please a family member, employer or government agency, you’re likely to be less engaged in the process. For some, counselling will never be their thing. Also, seeing a purpose for getting involved in counselling is important.
  2. Don’t underestimate the power and value of the therapeutic relationship. In other words, choose a counsellor or therapist that you feel you can talk and relate to.  Choosing therapists solely according to their credentials can be a disappointment.  The research on therapy demonstrates consistently that the rapport and compatibility that you have with your therapist is the number one factor in determining whether or not therapy will help you.  There are many types of people and personalities in the world.  Counsellors are no different!
  3. Think about what you want to talk about before you come in for your appointment. This ensures that the session is spent in a way that’s most relevant to your needs and situation.  You identify what the priority for discussion is.  After all, the purpose of counselling is to best help you!
  4. Arrive on time. A basic but often overlooked point.  A typical “therapy hour” is 50 minutes. If you’re ten minutes late and time also has to be reserved at the end of the session for making another appointment and payment, you have just over half an hour left in your session.  It can be frustrating to leave a session feeling that what you came in to talk about had not been fully expressed or addressed.
  5. Take notes. While not everyone’s cup of tea, writing things down increases one’s ability to remember the salient parts of the session, including any homework.  Some people find it best to take notes as the session progresses, others like find a quiet spot to write just after their session is over.  Another approach is to journal about your session at various times during the week.
  6. Ask questions. This increases your participation in the therapy process and sharpens the focus of the session.  It’s also always good to clarify anything that your counsellor has said that you don’t understand or are puzzled about.
  7. Ask for homework or participate in the homework suggested to you. Typically, it is the clients who are able to continue their therapy outside of the therapy office that make the greatest gains in counselling.  There is nothing like real life practice to solidify the the opportunities for growth and change that you have been discussing in therapy.
  8. Provide feedback to the therapist. All therapists should be open to this: choose one who is.  If the counsellor is helping you in a particular way, let them know so they can do more of the same.  But even more important, if a direction in therapy is being suggested that seems irrelevant to you, let the counsellor know—otherwise this is a waste of your time.  You may even feel hurt and misunderstood if this goes unchecked.  It’s also very important to check-in with your therapist if he or she has said something that has offended you, hurt you or made you angry.  If this discussion is handled well by the therapist, the therapeutic relationship you have with your counsellor will be more fulfilling.
  9. Have your payment ready at the end of your session. This will help both you and the counsellor feel less rushed, allowing for a much more relaxed good-bye.  There is something to be said about ending a session in a peaceful fashion; we can then attempt to carry this sentiment throughout the day.
  10. Treat the therapy process as important. Be mindful about who you share details of your session with.  Friends and family are frequently quick to give their opinions without the context that you and your therapist have discussed.  Others’ points of view may confuse or distress you, especially if you are addressing an issue in a particular way with your therapist.

Therapy can be a wonderful, life-altering experience!  It’s important to treat it like an investment: your participation is a key part of this process.

If you would like to discuss the prospect of counselling further, I welcome you to call or email me!