When people come to therapy, it is for lots of different reasons (something I will blog about at a later date, I think). Here are some suggestions, though, on how to get the best out of therapy and how to maximise your investment into the process, and get the end result you want.
~Knowing what you want to do or what you want to happen. This can be really hard, but if you can come to therapy with a vague idea of how you want things to be, then your mind will already be working towards it and looking for it. That might just be ‘to not have flashbacks’ or ‘to feel less anxious’ or ‘to not feel so bad’ or ‘to get out of a relationship’ or something else entirely different, but being able to share it with your therapist will give a good starting point to work from. It can also be helpful if you know what it is you want to work on so even going with something like ‘I want to work on my anxiety’ or ‘…it’s my phobia of planes’ or ‘I need to feel better about myself’ or ‘I had a bad childhood’, those are all valid. That said, if you don’t know, or can’t work it out, that’s ok too, share that with your therapist (I think when I went into therapy, I just said ‘I want to feel different’, and that was enough).
~Be there because you want to be there. If you want to be in therapy and it’s the right time for you to be there, then you will benefit more than if you are reluctant to be there in some way. If you’re there because you feel you should, or someone pushed you to, or you’re trying to please someone, or something else that’s not about you, then there will be some level of resistance. Yes, you may benefit anyway, and it could still be a majorly positive decision, but you will always get more from it when you believe in it and actually want to be there with all of you.
~Find a therapist that you connect with. This is vital. You need to feel that connection and that trust in your therapist. This is why it is sensible to meet a few therapists to see who fits best with you. This connection can come in different ways; it may be a therapist who has a high level of qualifications, or is still a student, it might be a therapist who you feel comfortable or safe with, it may be a therapist who works with a particular type of therapy, it may be a therapist you feel ‘gets’ you. It could be anything at all, but your therapist needs to be the right one for you. I firmly believe this is key to success of anyone’s therapy. I would also encourage people to speak up if you’re feeling that you don’t have that connection with your therapist. If you’re in private therapy, then talk to your therapist about it and then maybe seek another. If you’re in therapy with an organisation of some sort, then speak with your therapist and they may be able to arrange for you to see someone else. Any respectable therapist will explore this with you and be able to work with you to get what you need (even if this is another therapist).
~Find out about what your therapist offers. Learn about your therapist and his/her modalities, and how they work. Find out what they offer and what they can offer you. Then think about if that fits with what you want or need from therapy. There are so many types of therapy and it can feel overloading and overwhelming when faced with lots of options. So try to do a bit of research if you can, to find out what you do want and once you have learned what your therapist does, maybe research then work out if that is what you want. Not all therapies work for everyone.
~Be active in your therapy. All therapies will require you to be active in it and commit to it. No one can do it for you. Even therapies where they can be therapist led, it can’t be done ‘to’ you, it can only be done ‘with’ you. So really be active in it. Find the therapist yourself. Contact them yourself. Ask questions. Reflect on what you’re experiencing. Do work in between the sessions. Be motivated to work on yourself. Hear and listen to what your therapist says, and really engage and respond to whatever it is. The more you give to therapy, the more you’ll get from it.
~Take risks and be courageous. Being in therapy can be a risk in itself. It can be scary to share things with someone, or to be in a room with someone, or to be in that therapeutic relationship, and so many other things. It can be a huge risk to verbalise something painful or shameful or that you hold guilt for. When the time is right, take that risk, trust your therapist, and explore whatever it is. It will be worth it. It might be tough, but it will be worth it. Those things that need a risk to share and need courage to explore, will be some of the things that are most important to work with in therapy, whatever they are.
~Share. Being open and honest in therapy is also key. The more you share, the more open you are, the more you will benefit. That’s not to say share everything immediately, because some things can not be shared straight away. But be ok with telling your therapist how you feel in the session, out of the session, about him/her, how effective you feel the therapy is, what you need from it, what you need from your therapist, what your body is doing, what your mind is doing, what you’re thinking (even if it’s something you’re ashamed of or don’t want to share, even sharing there is something in your mind you’re not yet ready to share can be useful). Sometimes the aim can be to get to a place where you can be completely open and honest, even if you’re not able at a specific time. If you’re aiming to get to that place, then you will get there. Please also don’t worry about offending your therapist. People seem to worry a lot about offending therapists and that’s a normal and natural thing, especially if you are used to pleasing people, or you don’t like to upset people. I can categorically say I’ve never been offended by anything a client has said to me. In that room, I am there, as a therapist, for you, my client, and that means with whatever you bring. The more you bring, the more courageous you are, the more risks you take, especially with things that you worry would offend me, the richer and deeper the work and the more effective. If you think that you’re not getting what you want, or you want to see someone else, or you don’t like something I did, or it didn’t work as we hoped, share it. Then it gives us a chance to change it.
~Make therapy important in your life. The more you commit to therapy, the more you will prioritise it. Sometimes, there will be things that take priority (such as if you’re ill and unable to go, or you have an emergency of some type, or a ‘one off’ like if you have a wedding), however, therapy should be prioritised above many of the normal, everyday things, such as shopping, or a day at the beach. If you push down the priority of therapy, then you’re not engaging with it as much as you could, so won’t get as much from it.
~Go to your appointments. This sounds silly and obvious, however, it can be easy to skip appointments, and this can also be related to therapy, or being scared of it, in some way. The more you go and the more consistent the sessions, the more you will take from it. If you are struggling to go for some reason, then this ties in with sharing, because that would be the point that you need to share with your therapist how you feel about therapy, what’s going on for you, why you’re not going, what you want to happen when you don’t go, and anything else. It’s also important to arrive on time, to get the most out of your session.
~Finally, and maybe most importantly. See it as an investment. Therapy is an investment into your present and, especially, your future. An investment into you. When you know you’re investing in yourself, and your future and working towards getting what you want from life, you are showing yourself that you can do it, that you are worth it, and that you believe that things can be better than they are now. If you can stick with it; they will be, because you can do it, you are worth it and things can be better than they are now.
You can benefit hugely even if you’re not able to do all these things, but it really is as I said, the more you invest, the more you engage, the more you commit, the more positive and healing the journey will be.