8 Tips for Making Therapy More Effective
Whether you’re recovering from addiction, an eating disorder, or a mental health issue, psychotherapy will be a central part of your treatment. In therapy, you discover hidden motivations, correct distorted thinking, and develop strategies for healthier behavior. It’s your therapist’s job to help you through the process, so you don’t have to know anything specific before entering therapy. However, there are some things you can do to make sure you’re getting the most out of your time in therapy.
Think of therapy as a collaboration
Perhaps the most important thing to realize about therapy is that it’s a collaborative process. Your therapist is an expert but she’s not there to fix you. She can offer feedback, suggestions, and guidance, but ultimately, you run the show. She may have the knowledge and experience, but only you know your personal history, what kinds of thoughts as feelings you struggle with most, and how you want your life to improve. There’s only so much she can do without your guidance and cooperation. Going to therapy isn’t like dropping your car off at the shop and letting your mechanic figure out what’s wrong. It’s your mind and your life so you have to play a major role in the process.
It’s inevitable that at some point during therapy, you will feel uncomfortable. Dealing with unpleasant thoughts, emotions, and memories is always difficult. You may have to confront some aspects of your personality or behavior that you don’t like. A good therapist knows when to push and when to back off and you don’t have to talk about things if you’re not ready. However, you should be prepared for some challenges during therapy. Try to think of them as growth opportunities.
Don’t censor yourself.
In normal conversation, there’s quite a lot you don’t say. Maybe it’s not appropriate to the situation, maybe it’s not relevant to the topic, or maybe it’s just too personal. This self-censorship is good in normal interaction but in therapy, it’s better to be more open. Say the thought that pops into your head, even if it seems irrelevant. Say the thing that is too personal or possibly embarrassing. These may offer insights into your problems that you may miss out on if you censor yourself.
Do your homework.
Typically, you’ll only meet with your therapist once or twice a week. Often, your therapist will give you assignments to complete between sessions. For example, she might ask you to write down times you feel anxious or depressed, write down any events associated with those time, and what beliefs about those events that might have made you feel anxious or depressed. Or she might ask you to do something that makes you slightly anxious. These assignments aren’t usually terribly difficult or time consuming, but they will probably force you out of your comfort zone a little bit. It’s important to actually do these assignments. Otherwise, it’s a bit like taking piano lessons and not practicing in between. The goal of therapy is to make lasting changes to your thinking and behavior and that requires consistent daily effort. Even if you don’t specifically get homework, think about what you talked about in your sessions and try to apply it to your life. People often find it helpful to keep a therapy journal, in which they write about what they discussed in therapy.
It’s crucial to be honest with your therapist. For the most part, she only knows what you tell her. She may be able to learn some things about you from your friends, family, or medical records, but only you can tell her what you’re thinking and feeling. Some things can be hard to share, even in the privacy of individual therapy. If you’re not ready to share, say so. Don’t make things up. The more honest and open you are, the more progress you will make. And don’t worry about the things you say getting out. Therapists are legally required to maintain confidentiality. Typically, the only exceptions are if you make a credible threat to hurt yourself or others, if a child is in danger, or if you plan to commit a crime. Otherwise, your therapist is not allowed to tell anyone what you say in your sessions. In that way, you’re much safer telling your therapist something than telling your best friend or family member.
Ask lots of questions.
As noted above, your therapist is an expert who works for you. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. You can ask about anything–why you’re doing some particular exercise, how a psychological concept works, what experience your therapist has with certain issues, and so on. Knowing why you’re doing things can increase your motivation and engagement and having a better understanding of psychology in general can help you be more aware of what’s going on in your own head. Asking questions also keeps you engaged in the process.
Set some goals.
Most of the time, when you enter therapy, you have a general idea why you’re there. Maybe you’re depressed, or you can’t stop drinking, or you have an unhealthy relationship with food. Obviously, you want to solve the major problem. However, it can be useful to have some goals to serve as signposts on the way so you can get an idea of whether therapy is helping or if you need to chance tactics. Talk to your therapist about establishing some provisional goals that will allow you to evaluate your progress. Not only will this give you feedback on whether the approach is effective, but if you do see some small successes early on, it can motivate you to keep working hard.
Keep your sessions mostly to yourself.
You are, of course, free to discuss your sessions with whomever you want. You’re not bound by the same rules of confidentiality as your therapist. However, it’s usually a good idea to keep your sessions mostly to yourself. A lot of your friends and family may want to offer well-meaning but misguided advice. Some people might just want to control you. By keeping your sessions mostly to yourself, you maintain more control over the process and avoid conflicting opinions.
At Patrick Hart Consultants, we provide a number of different services to fit the needs of each individual client. Among these, are helping you choose a treatment provider, helping you develop a treatment plan, helping you establish post-treatment support, and ensuring continuity among the different elements of treatment. Contact us today at 844-2627970 or Info@PatrickHartConsultants.com or explore our website for more information.