Going to mental health therapy is an act of self-love. It can help you go through a difficult time and improve your quality of life. However, starting therapy gives you a mix of emotions: You may feel nervous and don’t know what to expect; Maybe you have some preconceived notions about it; You don’t know what to talk about; or, You are worried that therapy might be ineffective.
You need to do more than just go to all of your sessions to actually notice improvements from mental health therapy, so here are some tips that will help you to get the most out of your therapy sessions.
Find the Right Therapist
The right therapist for you is not always the one that has the most credentials or experience. Rather, it is the one that makes you comfortable and gains your trust. The connection between patient and therapist is one of the factors that most determine the success of therapy, so trust your instinct.
If you feel the therapist is not a good fit for you, talk to them about changing the type of therapy or what problems you are having with them. If after three sessions you are not noticing improvements, it is best to find another therapist.
Handle Business Before the Counselling Session Starts
Handle all of the logistical aspects of the therapy before the session starts. This includes scheduling the next appointment, talking about insurance and making a payment. This way, you can focus on what really matters for the rest of the session.
Determine Goals for Therapy
It is important to set realistic and measurable goals for mental health therapy and use them to track your progress. Start writing down all the reasons you have for going to therapy. This will help you focus on specific issues that you can address. Set small goals that are specific, such as:
- Overcome the fear of public speaking by going to three social events in a month.
- Sleep better without having nightmares for at least three nights a week.
Set a time for the goals, and if you think one of them is too big, break them into smaller achievements that you can measure. Your therapist can help you create a plan to track the progress.
Keep a Therapy Session Journal
If you frequently think about things to talk about in your therapy session but forget about them once you are there, then you could benefit from having a journal. Keeping a therapy journal can help you keep your ideas organized during the session, and you can record any thoughts on-the-go that you think can be useful. You can get to know yourself better and relieve stress. You can use your journal to keep track of your goals. When you write down your goals, you are more likely to achieve them and track your growth from the therapy.
Practice the Work Outside the Session
In order to have a successful therapy experience and build a therapeutic relationship with your therapist, you need to commit to the process and take the work outside of the counselling session. If the therapist recommends you practice breathing exercises or other activities, make sure to do them.
Keep a journal and use it to prepare for every session and reflect on the last one. Observe your behavior and thoughts between the sessions and apply the therapy in your real life. The therapist is not some kind of magician who will do everything for you while you sit and wait until the change is done. You need to put some effort toward making a change and improving your life.
Choose the Right Time to Go to Your Sessions
When it comes to scheduling therapy sessions, make sure to choose a day and time when you don’t have other responsibilities on your mind and you can give your therapy full attention. Do not schedule a session in the middle of a day of work or before having an important exam at school. You will be in a rush and want to end the session soon. You may not have enough time to process your thoughts and emotions before and after the session.
Don’t Be Afraid of Saying Anything
So many people withhold emotions and thoughts, because they think they are shameful or are afraid of being judged. However, your counselor is a person who won’t judge and cares about your well-being. Let go of all your thoughts, because this is the way of growing and getting the help you need. It doesn’t matter how selfish, small, stupid or impolite your feeling or emotion is: Talk about it. As long as you are honest and respectful, there are no rules about how to talk to your therapist.
Depending on your issues and concerns, therapy can even take months to heal you completely and the therapist also needs time to analyze you and guide you through the process. Don’t expect therapy to be something like ”Complete four sessions and you are gone.” Enjoy the process of getting to know yourself better and healing.
Be Ready for Change
Improving at therapy requires some change and getting out of your comfort zone. Many patients feel uncomfortable, so it is important to accept change and know that you may require more change than what you think. Get ready to take the risk, especially if the problem is more complex, such as a sex addiction, an eating disorder or social anxiety.
Enjoy the Whole Hour of Therapy
Always arrive early at your session to check your journal and think about what you need to talk about. Once the session begins, forget about the clock and let the time pass until your therapist says the session has ended.
Mental health therapy can be a rewarding experience for you if you do it correctly and with the right professional. It can help you have more self-awareness, overcome daily fears and concerns, as well as become a better version of yourself. Follow the tips mentioned above and get the most out of your therapy.