So this post follows from last week’s post about who should go to therapy, kind of a two-parter that I split up. So, you’re in therapy or you’ve convinced your friend/family member/crazy cat-lady neighbor that they need to go therapy. Good job, you’re doing it! But way too many people are getting a less than stellar experience in therapy unfortunately, and while some of that has to do with sub-par therapists, some of it is also likely due to people not knowing how to maximize the time they have in session. So, let’s supercharge your sessions to get more bang for your buck (look at me, killing the business).
So, first, have an idea of what you want to get out of a session. This sounds obvious, but honestly very few people have goals for each session. Almost everyone has goals for therapy, and a good therapist will help you understand what those are, but most therapeutic goals are long-term and based on gradual change, but having an idea of what you want to get out a session before it begins can help you get to the good stuff faster, rather than your therapist working their way to what you want to talk about. Setting short-term goals is great, and you can use that skill for each individual session. Some of my clients come in with notes they took over the week that they want to discuss. Some of my clients text me during the week or before session about what they want to talk about, however it works for you, setting some intention for session will make each meeting more useful. Your therapist always has things they can talk about, we have so many questions, but getting the most out of session comes from your wants/needs, not just your therapist magically asking the right question.
Second, another potentially obvious thing, is be open and honest with your therapist. I know this isn’t an easy thing, but just like your partner isn’t a mind-reader, neither is your therapist. A good therapist will have good intuition and be able to read you, but that takes time that can be used actually working through things. If you’re mad at your therapist for something they said last session, tell them, work through, and learn how that works real-time in session. If you’re struggling with thoughts of self-harm, tell your therapist, don’t wait for them to ask! If you wait for the last five minutes of session to bring that up, your therapist is stuck trying to address it appropriately and balancing having people out in the waiting room. And I get it, sometimes we feel like we need to work up to the harder topics, but that goes back to the first point that you can save time and use your time in session more efficiently by knowing what you need to talk about. Along with this idea, don’t lie to your therapist. You totally can get away with it, you sneaky bugger! Therapists aren’t cops, they aren’t investigators or detectives, if you want to lie to them you absolutely can get away with it, either by telling an outright lie or not sharing information you want to keep from them. But the issue is it just makes therapy take longer. If you’re committed to not telling your therapist about how much you drink each day, you will be able to maintain that for awhile, but if it needs to be addressed and you don’t share it, it won’t come up until it is much, much harder to work on. Research shows that most couples go to therapy years after they start having problems, and I can definitely say couples who are entrenched in their bad habits have a much harder time making positive changes than couples who catch it early. Same goes for nearly any issue, it will come out eventually, keeping a secret that you are embarrassed about sharing just makes therapy take longer. And hey, that’s totally your call, if you want to spend an extra six months in therapy, you sure can, I’m just saying it could go faster.
Last thing, (just because I arbitrarily try to keep these somewhat short, not because there aren’t more ideas) give your therapist feedback just like they give you feedback. Good therapy will be collaborative, so letting your therapist know what is working and what isn’t working helps them to make better use of your time together. If you put in the work and try what your therapist talks about in session, your therapist will put in as much work into creating helpful sessions for you based on your feedback. So, take their feedback, try to make the changes that get discussed in session, and then let them know how it honestly went. I recommend yoga for so many people, because it’s objectively helpful for most people, but some people just don’t love it. If a client doesn’t really try it, I can’t know if it helps or not, but if someone really gives it the ol’ college try and comes back and tells me they hate it, then we can work to find different options.
So, try these ideas out, share them with other therapy peeps. I can’t wait for y’all to throw my words back at me in future sessions.