Getting the most out of therapy - seven tips and shortcuts

Submitted by counsellor


1. Ask yourself what you want:

• What is my problem? What do I need help with?
• How much money can I spend on therapy? Think about the cost per session, the regularity and the number in total.
• How much time do I have? Think about the session time, the travelling time, other commitments.

Shortcut: Preparing yourself will help you commit to and focus on the therapy.

2. Find the right therapy for you:
You can find short descriptions of various therapies by looking on this website. Ultimately you need to find a way of working through your problems that make sense to you. Trust yourself - you have a choice.

Shortcut: Ask the therapist to explain how their therapy works. The more you understand, the better you will be able to work with the therapist.

3. Find an effective & ethical therapist:
Therapy is no different from any other profession some people are good at what they do and some aren’t. Likely indicators of the therapist’s effectiveness will be the length and quality of training as well as their experience. If they belong to a professional organisation it means that you will have somewhere to take complaints if necessary. Get recommendations from reputable sources or use a website directory that has checked the therapists’ credentials.

Shortcut: Ask the therapist for details of their qualifications and experience. The more competent the therapist the more helpful he or she is likely to be.

4. Find a good therapeutic relationship:
This is actually the most important factor for successful therapy. Good therapy is about connection – being helped to connect back into life. You need to feel that there is some connection between you and your therapist and that the relationship sows seeds of strength and hope. Perhaps the therapist will remind you of other relationships in your life that were helpful or enriching.

Shortcut: Don’t let apathy, fear, resignation or misplaced good manners keep you in therapy if you see no obvious benefit.

5. Talk to your therapist:
Therapy can only really be of benefit if you are prepared to talk openly and honestly to your therapist. Of course you will need to trust the therapist, which goes back to the importance of a good relationship. If the relationship starts off well but gets stuck, then you might consider talking about the difficulties you experience in the therapy. This will help your therapist understand you better and tailor the therapy more closely to your needs. Ask questions; try to make sense of what is going on in yourself and in your relationship to the therapist.

Shortcut: Most psychological therapies work through talking. If you find it too difficult to talk over a sustained period then you may want to look into therapies that work with communication through the body, art, voice, music or drama.

6. Work on stuff between sessions:
You might work with your therapist to come up with (between session) tasks involving either reading or doing specified activities. If your therapist does not work in that way then you might consider keeping a journal of the therapy sessions or a journal to record things that you would like to talk about in therapy. Writing stuff down or thinking about them will help prepare you emotionally and mentally before the session, and after the session it will help you further process your thoughts and feelings. It will also be a record of your progress.

Shortcut: Doing more work will mean a faster and fuller solution to your problem.

7. Never give up:
Never give up on yourself. When you are feeling down or overwhelmed by your problems it is difficult to believe that you will ever be happy and contented again. Take small steps and give yourself credit for each one of them. You are not alone; everyone struggles from time to time. Most therapists have been through their own therapy and will know that it can be painful and slow. Be patient and persistent - you will get there. Good luck in finding your way through the therapy maze and back to a life that is meaningful to you.

Shortcut: Say, “I can”

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