Here’s some tips to make your experience in therapy as fruitful as possible.
1. Talk to several therapists before choosing one: There are all sorts of personalities and many different modalities. Finding someone you connect well with is the most important predictor of success.
2. Make sure the financial commitment is sustainable: Therapy can be expensive. Make sure you don’t end up shelling out more money than you can afford. Many therapists, myself included, offer sliding-scale spots for those who cannot pay our full fee.
3. Come up with specific goals to bring into the office: Knowing what you want to work on before starting therapy will help you evaluate whether therapy is effective.
4. Attend every week: Sometimes new clients want to start by seeing me every other week – but this usually ends up being frustrating and leading to limited results. I strongly encourage new clients to see me every week for at least a few months. Of course, missing the occasional session is understandable but if you’re serious about change then commit to attending regularly.
5. Arrive a few minutes early: Give yourself some time to transition between your busy day and the therapy office. Similarly, take some time to yourself after your appointment before jumping back in to your schedule. You’ll be able to better integrate what just happened.
6. Be ready to work outside the office: Just showing up to therapy and expecting your life to change will be only marginally successful! How you apply yourself during the 167 hours of the week that you’re not in therapy is key.
7. Talk about how you feel about your therapist: This one can be difficult for people that are trying therapy for the first time. But talking candidly about your feelings for your therapist is important. Do you find your therapist to be too passive? too pushy? do you think they’re amazing? or perhaps there’s something about them you just don’t like at all? Therapy is an unusual place where these feelings can – and should – be shared openly.
8. Be OK with not knowing what you’re going to address in session: Despite the importance of having goals there are some days when it will be OK to have no idea what you want to work on. Trust that what needs to happen will emerge.
9. Give it time: While you may start to see results quickly, you also may not. Or maybe you make some progress towards your goals, and then encounter a setback. It’s important to remember that change can be difficult. Stick with it and keep trying.
10. But also assess your progress at set intervals: At least every 10 sessions it’s important to check in with your therapist and talk about if you’re moving in the direction you want to be heading in. If you’re not making progress towards your goals with your therapist it might be time to try another therapist or a different healing modality.
11. When it’s time to end let your therapist know in advance: It can be tempting to decide you’re done with therapy and let your therapist know via email or a phone call. But the end of therapy is as important as the beginning. It’s advisable to process the ending of your work with your therapist for at least 3 sessions.
Of course there are many other components of successful therapy. What do you think? What are some other tips? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
XY Counseling specializes in working with men, couples and teens. Alexander Warnow, Licensed MFT # 92437, started XY Counseling because he saw a need for men to be supported by other men.