If you are new to therapy or have taken a hiatus from your sessions and are now back in the game, then this blog post is speaking to you. There are books dedicated to the subject of understanding what therapy is, the stages of therapy, building safety and trust and the differing therapeutic approaches. I promise not to make this too convoluted and will keep it to the basics but for those researchers out there, I recommend a well written book on the topic is “A User’s Guide to Therapy: What to expect and how you can benefit”.
While there are many, many approaches (modalities) to therapy, it is not necessary for you to become well versed in each one- not possible right? However, being an informed consumer as in any other domain of your life, is doing due diligence and puts YOU in the driver’s seat of your mental health care. It’s good to know some basics, such as Solution Focused versus Psychodynamic or Somatic-oriented versus Cognitive Behavioral. You can learn about your therapist’s style (website, consent forms) and formal training and together make a decision about which approach might be best for the issues you are concerned most about.
So, let’s get something out of the way. In my opinion here are a few thoughts about WHAT THERAPY IS NOT:
- A place to vent
Generally speaking, this is not helpful and sort of keeps ya stuck….yes, there is a time and a place to just “get it out”, but do yourself a favor AND DON’T STAY THERE! A good therapist will guide you away from venting when it becomes unhelpful.
- The therapist reading your mind
Yes, therapists are usually quite intuitive people and will pick up on unspoken language and blocks/blindspots. However, it is up to you (the client) to communicate how you are feeling, what you are thinking. And as always, the therapist is a guide alongside you to navigate that labyrinth when it gets difficult to name.
- The therapist being tricky
Therapists ask questions for various reasons. They also reflect back statements about what they hear/understand. It should never feel manipulative or sketchy. If you are left wondering “why is he/she asking me about that?”, well just ask! Therapists are trained at not taking things personally (though, of course we have feelings too) and are concerned most about the relationship and creating trust and safety.
- My therapist tells me what I should do, gives me advice
Generally speaking, (apart from safety concerns) advice giving is left to the job of your friends and family. Don’t you just love their ‘rush to it, solution-giving style, let’s fix the problem mentality’? UH, NO! The last thing you really want is another person (who you are paying) to tell YOU the best course of action to take. This is where a skilled therapist comes in. A therapist will guide you to make long lasting changes (it is also good to know about the stages of change) through EMPOWERING key word YOU to better understand and connect to your truest thoughts and feelings about a particular situation.
OKAY……Are you still with me?
HERE ARE 3 TIPS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR THERAPY SESSIONS
- Come prepared. Have some intention- no matter how small you might think it is. Be thoughtful about your goals for therapy. Together, you and your therapist will set an agenda (sometimes this is done formally but not always) for each session. You don’t want to reach the end of session and realize you didn’t even get close to addressing the issue you wanted to and then you have to ‘table’ it until next time. This could lead to resentment.
- Do the ‘homework’ in between sessions. This is along the same lines as #1 BE prepared. Many therapists will give supplemental assignments specific to the issue(s) you are working on. DO IT. If you don’t find a particular assignment helpful, speak up. Remember, therapists are adept at not taking things personally. Together, the two of you can find another method for addressing the issue that brought you in to therapy.
- Be vulnerable. Or at the very least, get damn close to it would ya! Say what is on your mind and what you are feeling in your heart. The therapy room is the ideal place to practice taking risks WITHIN A RELATIONSHIP, as well as to really get to know the inner most parts of yourself. If your therapist says something that bothers you or your feel misunderstood by your therapist, it can feel awkward to say something….but it can also be freeing. It may provide an opportunity for growth by speaking your feelings and to practice effective communication skills. After all, research shows that it is not a particular therapeutic approach that offers the best outcome rather it is the therapeutic
relationship (things such as feeling seen, heard, understood).
So there you have it. I hope these tips were helpful. And as always, if you want a complementary consultation with me to see if we might be a good fit to work together, CONTACT ME. I look forward to hearing from you.