Whether you’re currently in therapy or new to the process, it’s never too late to consider taking steps that will maximize your therapeutic experience. When your mental health is suffering, it a challenging step to take the leap into therapy. The challenge doesn’t stop there. Participating in therapy is an active process, and to reap the full benefits of it you must actively put in the effort to make it work.
Preparing for any type of appointment is always a good idea, but it’s not something people commonly do. Especially for therapy. Maybe you don’t have a clear understanding of what goes on during a therapy session or you lack the tools to feel prepared. Assuming that you’ve already chosen your therapist and worked out all the details, here are some ways to be proactive about your next therapy session. These are good rules of thumb for any session, whether it’s your first time or your third year.
It’s a good idea to consider what you want to get out of your session and therapy beforehand. This will not only help you into what you want to focus on, but it will help your therapist understand how to help you. Take some time to write down specific questions you want to ask so that you don’t miss them. If you’re not sure what you want or need to focus on, you could jot ideas down when they come to you. It’s okay if your objective changes over time, but utilizing this process will help you feel more prepared.
You may or may not use it, but it’s a good practice to bring in case there’s something worth jotting down. It’s also a handy tool for introspection when you’re finished with your session. Journaling has many cognitive benefits and utilizing it right after a therapy session will help you further digest everything that came up.
With therapy being so misunderstood, there’s often a lot of pressure going into a session, but especially the first one. It’s important to approach each session with an open mind and to avoid expecting complete transformation the very first time you go. In fact, the first session will be exploratory and helps set the tone and objectives for the remainder of sessions. Therapy is a gradual process, and realistic expectations will help you reach your goals sooner.
Transparency is a crucial step to any therapeutic session. It’s normal if this feels challenging at first, so it’s okay to give yourself time to adjust. A therapist can’t properly help you if they don’t have the full picture. Vulnerability is a part of therapy, and it’s the safest place to express yourself without caution. Therapy is a confidential process, and you should use that benefit to your advantage. Honesty will help you get the most out of your session, so give your counselor or therapist as many details as you can manage.
Therapy should be viewed as a team effort. The more willing you are to do the work inside and outside of each session, the more you’ll get out of counseling. In any relationship, each party must be willing to put in the effort to make it work. A therapeutic relationship works the same way. When you and your therapist can actively work together in collaboration, your healing process is much smoother, and you’ll get more out of it.
Vulnerability is emotionally taxing, and it can be especially daunting to open up and discuss heavy topics after a long or busy day. It takes a great deal of effort to show someone your inner world. In order to get the most out of your session, book it when you have the mental space to be present.
Mental health works in the same way that physical health does. Progress is made with time and consistency. Too many people quit on therapy before any progress is made. Counseling is a place to unpack heavy parts of ourselves, meaning that patience is an essential part of the process. Time and progress in therapy will look different from person to person. Make sure you trust the therapist you’re working with and give them the patience to help you.
This may feel like an intimidating step, and that’s normal. Try to think of feedback as a way to deepen your relationship to your therapist. Their main goal is to make your experience with them as valuable as possible. While they have lots of training and skills, you have your own unique needs. If you can be willing to tell them how to better work with you, the better the experience for both of you.
It’s normal to be nervous right before you go into your session. Not to worry, your therapist is there to guide you and help you feel at ease. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t find the words or don’t know where to start.
If you’re already participating in therapy or just booked your first appointment, give yourself credit. A lot of people never make it that far. If you are still on the fence, consider booking a consultation. Whether you want an office session or you prefer doing therapy from home, we’re here to accommodate your needs.
Here at Dr. Messina and Associates, our compassionate team of professionals are qualified to help you at our Flower Mound, Texas, and Southlake, Texas, offices. Our Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Counselors specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychological testing, and medication management for a variety of emotional and behavioral health needs. All services are available in-person and online (telehealth). If you or a loved one are seeking help with mental health, we are here to help.