How to get the most out of therapy by Shelby Albright

Investing in your mental health is an amazing choice, and you should already feel proud of yourself for choosing to improve the quality of your life. To make the most of your time in therapy, consider the following recommendations for how you can use your therapy time well:

Consider your mental health goals. What do you want to change in your life, or what would you change about the quality of your mental health? Is therapy just for you, or do your goals also affect someone else; if the latter, are they willing to participate in therapy?

Speak with your therapist about how often to meet for sessions. You should consider the financial aspects of therapy and your scheduling needs. Are in-person sessions more effective for you to deep dive into difficult topics, or are telehealth sessions more convenient and similarly effective for you? Consistent attendance of your sessions will keep you on track and make progress more quickly than only meeting occasionally.

Consider if your therapist is a good fit for you. Each counselor brings their own personality into therapy sessions, and your ability to be honest and forthcoming in therapy is essential. If you feel uncomfortable in session, address this with your therapist to explore future steps to either improve your comfort or to find a better match for your needs.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable in therapy when you feel safe to do so; this will help you dig deep and get honest about your experiences and mental health needs. Showing up is a great starting point; being focused and mentally present in session gives an advantage to making changes while learning new skills.

Set positive and realistic expectations. Your mental healthcare requires time for long-term, lasting changes. One session may help you feel relief from the tension of daily life, but it will likely take several sessions for you to explore meaningful (and probably uncomfortable) changes that could improve the quality of your life. This includes doing therapy homework between sessions. Consider that you meet with your therapist for one hour at a time, so most of your life is spent outside of the therapy room. That means the most potential for change is also outside of the therapy room.

Take care of yourself after sessions. If you’re doing hard emotional and mental work, you’ll also need time to rest and recover. It may not be the best idea to have a deep therapy session and immediately go back to a stressful situation, as you may be feeling extra vulnerable and struggle to respond in healthy ways. If you can’t engage in self-care right after a session, you should make plans for self-care later, to look forward to something positive and soothing.

Therapy can be a challenging and rewarding process. If you’re ready to invest in yourself, we hope you can do so intentionally, from a well-informed stance on how you can take charge of your own mental health journey.

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