Get the Most Out of Therapy

by | Personal Growth & Empowerment

Therapy can definitely be a transformative and rewarding experience, providing individuals with the tools and insights needed to overcome challenges, improve mental health, and enhance overall well-being. Whether you’re seeking therapy for anxiety, depression, relationship issues, or personal growth, maximizing the benefits of therapy requires your active engagement and commitment.

Therapists are not there to replace relationships, but instead provide a human connection, to educate, help you navigate, help you process, provide tools and provide resources for your healing and improved well-being.  A therapist will listen, validate, ask questions to help you find the answers you have within you, offer compassion, and help you develop a greater awareness of yourself and your world.  They will assist you, with consistency, with patience, and over a period of time.

We all need support sources or a tribe who will help us – whether we lean on them or it’s enough to know they are there.  Typically support sources will include friends, family, spiritual advisors, mentors, doctors, members of groups and organizations, and therapists can add to your rounding out those sources.

Let’s explore key strategies to help you get the most out of your therapeutic experience.

Honesty: Effective therapy hinges on honesty and openness. I always tell my clients to (1) be honest with yourself, then (2) be honest with me. It’s essential to feel comfortable and have trust in your therapist, as this relationship will be foundational for the success of your therapeutic journey. Without all the information and your willingness to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, a therapist cannot provide the best tools or best insight to provide you with growth and information. Be candid about your concerns, fears, and goals, even if you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. Therapists are not there to judge you and have “heard it all” already. Your therapist’s goal is to meet you where you are, not to judge, disapprove, become angry, abandon or reject you or offer an opinion at all.  Therapy is for you and about you.

Set clear goals: Identify and communicate to your therapist what you want to achieve so that together you can set clear goals. Whether it’s reducing anxiety or working through a past trauma, having clear goals will help guide your sessions and measure progress.  I’ve often heard that “my former therapist never got to my issues.”  Remember, you are in control of most of your therapeutic experience and beginning the sessions by stating what you want to work on during that session is going facilitate your progress and help you reach your goals.

Maintain consistency: This is the key to therapeutic progress, and there is little therapeutic value with irregular therapy appointments or extended time between appointments. Attend your sessions regularly and make a commitment to engage in the process even when it feels challenging. Skipping sessions or not actively participating can impede your progress. Therapists cannot and will not work harder than you on your achieving your goals. Be prepared when you show up for your sessions; it is your time therefore your time to lead the discussion.

Take responsibility for your own growth: While therapists provide guidance and support, personal growth ultimately relies on your willingness to take accountability and responsibility for your actions and choices. Use the therapy as a platform for self-discovery and self-improvement. Apply insights gained in therapy to your daily life. Resistance in any form will impede your progress.

Practice between sessions: Therapy is not meant to be for just an hour with your therapist. It extends beyond the weekly session with exercises, journaling, mindfulness, and other suggested practices, tools, or readings provided to you during your session. These tools are meant to help you integrate what you’ve learned into your daily routine. Consistent practice of these tools reinforces therapeutic insights and fosters lasting change.

Be patient with yourself: The therapeutic progress is gradual, and setbacks may occur. Be patient with yourself and the process. I always say it wasn’t broken overnight and cannot be fixed overnight. Healing and personal growth take time, and it’s normal to experience ups and downs along the way but don’t let that detour or discourage you!

Be patient with your therapist:  Many things that therapists have to address during sessions are legally required and mandated by insurance companies.  Issues such as suicidal ideations, gathering information to provide a proper diagnosis in order for insurance to cover the sessions, asking if things have changed especially medications, are all part of the process to best serve you and are necessary for the therapist to maintain their license and avoid harm and/or malpractice.  Remember, therapists are clinicians and jus like physicians and nursing staff, they are mandated to ask questions by law.

Make sure your therapist provides the modality you need: Therapists have various modalities and certifications depending on their focus and it’s best to know what modality your therapist provides. Having a therapist just listen for you to process is rewarding because it is in a judgment free and safe place. But therapy should be tailored to your specific needs.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) involves identifying and challenging negative thought patterns, beliefs, and behaviors. Work with your therapist to develop strategies to break free from these patterns and limiting beliefs and replace them with healthier alternatives.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) helps to develop a set of skills that can make emotional regulation easier, which will help you make better decisions and be less vulnerable.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) which helps process trauma and feel free to ask your therapist about their modalities and specialties. If you feel you need a therapist with different assets, tell your therapist and they can refer you to someone who can be a better fit for you.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a therapeutic approach that falls under the umbrella of cognitive-behavioral therapies. Developed by Steven C. Hayes, ACT is grounded in the belief that psychological suffering is a natural part of the human experience and emphasizes the importance of accepting these experiences while committing to actions aligned with one’s values. It provides a unique framework for fostering psychological flexibility and enhancing overall well-being.
  • Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy is a therapeutic approach developed by Dr. Richard C. Schwartz that views the mind as a complex system made up of various sub-personalities or “parts.” The central premise of IFS is that these internal parts can have distinct beliefs, emotions, and intentions, and by understanding and harmonizing them, individuals can achieve healing and greater self-awareness.
  • Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic approach that utilizes hypnosis to induce a trance-like state of focused attention, heightened suggestibility, and deep relaxation. In this altered state, individuals become more open to suggestions and can explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors at a subconscious level. Hypnotherapy aims to leverage this heightened state of awareness for therapeutic purposes, addressing various concerns and promoting positive changes.
  • Trauma Informed Therapy is a therapeutic approach that recognizes the widespread impact of trauma on individuals and seeks to create a safe and supportive environment for healing. Rooted in an understanding of the profound effects of trauma on mental, emotional, and physical well-being, this approach prioritizes sensitivity, empowerment, and collaboration between the therapist and the individual seeking support.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy is rooted in Freudian principles, psychodynamic therapy explores unconscious processes and unresolved conflicts to gain insight into current behaviors and relationships.
  • Mindfulness-Based Therapies integrates mindfulness and meditation practices to enhance awareness, reduce stress, and promote well-being. Examples include Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).
  • Various Other Therapies which might include substance abuse, somatic experiencing, couples therapy, family therapy, walking therapy, art therapy, play therapy, etc.

The therapist you choose should be licensed in the state you are in at the time of therapy appointments.  There are various types of licenses such as LCSW, LMSW, Doctor of Psychology, LMFT so be aware of what type of education and license your therapist has.  In addition to licensure, therapists also obtain a variety of certifications allowing them to specialize in various modalities of treatment.

Communicate with your therapist: Don’t hesitate to tell your therapist if something doesn’t feel right, or you have concerns about the therapeutic approach. If you need more of something, less of something, or alternatives to the approaches that your therapist has been using, be honest and communicate effectively so your therapist can tailor the treatment to your specific needs and if needed to refer you to a therapist who might be a better fit for you.  A therapist is not going to take personally the fact that you feel you might be served better with a different practitioner.  In my practice I have made suggestions to clients whom I thought would benefit by a practitioner with a different approach or who is certified in a specialty area I am not.  It is all part of the process.

Celebrate your progress: Acknowledge and celebrate all the milestones you achieve through therapy, no matter how small they seem. It takes a stimulus for you to have something to respond to, and changing responses to your thinking and behaviors takes time. With each opportunity to use your new knowledge and tools, comes progress which can boost your motivation and reinforce positive changes.

Your therapist is there to support and guide you. Be sure to invest your time, effort, and commitment to the process to get the most out of your goals as well. Your active participation and willingness to change are essential for your best progress. Embrace the journey of self-care, self-discover, and healing, and you will reap the rewards of a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Wishing you infinite warmth, strength, and resilience,

For additional resources you might try:

12 Weeks of Creating the Life You Want | Better Life Inc

Doing The Things That Will Make Your Life Better | Better Life Inc

Therapeutic Journaling | Better Life Inc

Twenty-One Days of Writing to Discovery Your Authentic Self | Better Life Inc