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  • Susan J. Leviton

How to Make the Most of Your Therapy

Psychotherapy can help you feel better about yourself, improve your relationships, get through tough times, and more. Here are some tips on what you can do to help the process along.

Man sitting in chair talking to therapist
Man seeing his therapist

1. Find a therapist who is a good match for you.

Studies have shown that the most important factor in the success of talk therapy is not the method the therapist uses but rather the relationship between client and therapist. You should feel emotionally safe, respected, and understood. It may take a few sessions to assess this, especially since most people are a little nervous at the beginning. But if after that it just doesn't feel right, you should probably try someone else. Therapists understand that no one can be right for every client, so they will be fine if you decide it's not a good fit. (And we appreciate you being up front about it.) Don't give up till you find the right one!

2. Show up.

This may sound obvious, but there are so many demands on our time--kids get sick, parents need help getting to the doctor, bosses want you to work late, cars need repairs, just to name a few. However, your therapist can't help if you aren't there. And when you miss a session, you spend the next one just getting caught up on the past two weeks. The more you commit to your therapy, the more it will work for you.

3. Give your therapist feedback.

Even the best of therapists can goof sometimes. If you ever feel hurt by a remark, or like the therapist was judgmental or annoyed or anything else that bothers you, please let them know. Therapists are human, and pointing something out helps them look inside themselves to see if there's something they need to work on. Or perhaps they were giving off a vibe--or you were perceiving one--that they weren't feeling at all . This is a great opportunity to practice communication skills and learn how to set good boundaries in a safe environment.

4. Do some work between sessions.

Hopefully you are thinking about your session and trying to process it at some point during the week. I think of therapy kind of like a microwave--you "cook" things in session, then you need to let them sit a while to finish the process. You might want to write down thoughts or questions you have and bring them to the next session.

Some therapists give homework, some do not. Some give it as needed. I fall in the last category--if I think I have something that might help, I'll ask my clients how they feel about it. Some of my clients have told me they aren't much for reading, but they like worksheets. Some are the opposite. Some are eager to learn anything they can, and some just don't have the time. However, I don't get upset if it doesn't work for someone. I've had many clients who didn't want/need homework and they made great progress anyway.

4. Be willing to make some changes.

Change is HARD. I get it. But if you don't do anything differently, never take a risk on something new, then your life is not going to change. And didn't you start therapy because you didn't like the way things were?! (I understand that it may take time until you are ready. That's fine. I'm not talking about making changes right away, or making a lot of them at once. If you could do that, you wouldn't need therapy!)

I hope these suggestions have been helpful. If you have questions about therapy, please use my contact form and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

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