Know Before You Go: Strategies for Seeing a Therapist
You’ve recognized a need to get some help and are ready to take the first step. Now what? Here are ten strategies to get the most out of the therapy hour.
- Be choosy. It’s ok to screen potential therapists. Credentials are important because they give you a clue about what approach the therapist was trained in. Ultimately though, the most important consideration is how you feel with the therapist. Do they seem interested and capable? Do you sense that they enjoy their work? Do you trust them to guide you toward your goals?
- Once you decide on a therapist give it 3 sessions. Therapists are only human and the process does take a little time. It’s not unusual to feel uncomfortable, or uncertain whether therapy is helping. Commit to at least 3 sessions to give yourself the chance to understand how the process works and decide if a particular therapist is a good fit to help you.
- Take care of payment and ask about scheduling or billing questions at the top of the hour. Getting the logistics out the way gives you plenty of space to use your time efficiently.
- Bring a notebook. Jot down takeaways during the session as well as reflections/observations during your week. Important insights might seem obvious when they’re occurring but might be lost if they’re not written down.
- Set the intention of making therapy a top priority and make a commitment to yourself to stick with it. Keep working outside the therapy time. Dedicate time and space to practice the skills you’re learning and complete assignments you’re given.
- View therapy as co-created alliance. You will set the agenda and your therapist will offer guidance support and strategies to help you reach your goals. If you’re not sure what goals don’t be afraid to speak up. A competent therapist will speak up and guide the process but if that doesn’t happen let your voice be heard.
- Be honest. Say what’s on your mind during therapy. This might be the only interaction you have all week that allows you to fully speak your mind without fear of being judged. Good therapy means working toward authenticity and understanding that the process is messy at times.
- Know that you will bring your habits into therapy. Issues going on in your life will often show up during the therapy hour. A skilled therapist will kindly but firmly shine the light on this and help you develop new ways of operating.
- Be aware who you share your story with. If you’re confiding in friends or family about your therapy experience, protect yourself from unsolicited opinions and advice. Helpful support attempts can sometimes sabotage your therapy. There’s nothing wrong with reaching out for support as long as it’s from those who will genuinely offer it.
- Keep your sense of humor. Laughter and light-heartedness are the hallmarks of resilience. Yes, the issues you are struggling with are serious but activating the power of the human spirit can offer a soothing balm during painful times.