Therapy comes in all shapes and sizes, from group and family to individual and couples therapy. Some people go to therapy for treatment for substance use disorders or mental health disorders, while other people go to therapy to help them with life stressors. Therapy can also be preventative as well as treatment for a range of disorders and stressors. The therapeutic alliance, the relationship between the client and the therapist, is one of the most critical factors of a successful therapy program; however, there are a few other essential things to keep in mind if you want to receive the most out of your therapy sessions.
Bring all your emotions and do not hold back
Verbalizing your feelings is critical to the therapeutic benefit. Whether these emotions are negative or positive, you can tell these tough things to your therapist. Ugly cry, get angry, laugh, and do whatever it takes to get these emotions out and to the surface during your therapy session. Expressing your feelings can help you talk about underlying traumas or past and present negative situations.
Keep the focus on you and away from others
It is so easy to avoid the topic and talk about other people. Examples include placing blame on others, ask your therapist what she thinks about a specific situation with another person, or talking about circumstances that don’t relate to you. Making progress in your life will be difficult if you don’t use your therapy sessions to discuss yourself. It can be uncomfortable for many people to talk about themselves or how they’re feeling, so deflecting the focus away from the self is common in therapy. If you want to get the most out of your sessions, it is important to keep the conversation and spotlight on yourself.
Find the right therapist
Finding the right therapist with whom you feel comfortable expressing your true self is crucial to the therapy process. It is also essential to seek a therapist who specializes in what you are seeking therapy for; physical location, gender, and insurance coverage are also crucial factors in the process. It’s worth the investment in time to do your research and interview multiple candidates before settling on the right therapist. If, after a few sessions, you feel as if there is no connection (and you are trying your best), it is appropriate, to be honest with your therapist about how you feel and let them know that this is not working. Don’t stay with a therapist if it is not working. “Breaking up with your therapist” is okay, and sometimes it takes a couple of goes to find the right therapist with whom you can form a solid therapeutic alliance.
Develop a trusting connection with your therapist
It might take time to develop absolute trust to open up emotionally fully, but you should feel more at ease with your therapist within time. To establish trust, it is essential to be upfront and honest with your therapist about what you want out of therapy and about your feelings. Sometimes making a list of what you want out of therapy and your expectations before you start your session can be beneficial for this therapeutic alliance to grow. A trusting connection with your therapist may take time to develop, but you should feel better and more at ease after each session.
Try to connect the dots by recognizing patterns in your life
Therapy most likely will not give you direct answers, and your therapist is not there to tell you what you should and should not do. Instead, therapy is a guiding light, and you and your therapist work together to see the big picture of patterns and circumstances in your life and how this affects where you are today. Therapy is most effective when we can connect the dots between events and understand how our personalities and responses affect our well-being. These patterns will help uncover a deeper understanding of how you operate in different circumstances. They will continue to serve you once you stop attending sessions and navigate the world on your own.
Make therapy a priority and continue to do the work outside of therapy
It is so important to set boundaries around your therapy sessions which includes scheduling them at times that work for you where you will have no distractions so you can give 100% of yourself during each session. Still, therapy does not just end in the session. It is essential to do any homework assignments your therapist gives you, practice the coping skills in your daily life that you learned in session, and take the tools you learned in therapy and apply them to your relationships. Also, meditation, exercise, support groups, community, and creative work can help you to actualize the change you’ve discussed in your sessions.
It’s about understanding triggers, not about symptom relief
Therapy is not a cure, and although it is part of an overall treatment, it teaches you the appropriate tools to help you prevent and control symptoms and to recognize the “why.” Why do you have these symptoms? Therapy enables you to recognize underlying triggers associated with these symptoms so you and your therapist can understand why you have these symptoms in the first place. It is like taking ibuprofen for a headache, it alleviates the headache, but you must figure out why you are having headaches in the first place.