How to Get the Most Out of Therapy
Hello! My name is Sarah Deysher and I’m a Senior Psychotherapist, who has been practicing with Orchard Mental Health for four years. I have over seven years of clinical experience and primarily work with individuals ages 13 and up who experience anxiety and depression symptoms. I have particular interest and experience working with the young adult population.
It takes a certain amount of bravery and courage to begin therapy in the first place. Having a space to speak about the most vulnerable parts of you can be an uncomfortable yet freeing experience. Spending an uninterrupted hour to focus on YOU is powerful. However, this is just ONE hour out of your whole week (every two weeks or once a month depending on how often you are meeting with your therapist!).
So, how do you get the most out of your therapeutic experience during and after you’ve connected with a therapist? Here are four things you can do to make sure you are getting the most from your experience:
1. Be Honest
You might be thinking, “well, of course! I’m in therapy. I’m sharing my deepest darkest secrets with my therapist!”
The time it takes to form a relationship with a therapist varies, and therapy isn’t always about jumping right into talking about what is most painful to you. Relationships take time to develop along with proper communication; this applies to your relationship with your therapist as well.
A skilled therapist should ask for clarification and feedback on whether or not they understand your goals for therapy and your needs. It is completely appropriate to talk to your therapist in the event your goals change, or if you don’t feel like your therapist is understanding you. While the therapist is a mental health expert, you are the expert on YOU, and communicating with your therapist how you see therapy working for you is important for a positive outcome.
2. Do Your Homework
Sometimes therapists will give “homework” to complete outside of sessions. This could range from completing a worksheet and using skills learned in session, to thinking or journaling further about a concept discussed in your last appointment.
To get the most out of your therapeutic experience, it is best to put some time into the homework your therapist gives you. Set a reminder on your phone or write yourself a note to take a little time to work on yourself outside of your therapy session. This will deepen and expand the work you are doing on therapy.
If you don’t complete your homework, you won’t be kicked out of therapy or be in trouble! Sometimes there are barriers or things unforeseen that get in the way of making progress on homework. Don’t just ignore the fact that you did not complete your homework and hope your therapist will forget or that you will run out of time in your session. Discussing these barriers, challenges, or even reasons for “forgetting” to do the homework can shed light on areas that need attention. Further discussion will help to advance the work you are doing in therapy.
3. Write Things Down
Journaling isn’t everyone’s “thing” and that’s okay! However, I would recommend that while in therapy, you keep a little notebook of key concepts, ideas, strategies, etc. discussed in therapy for reference outside of session.
Maybe you are having a conversation with a friend and need to invoke some of those assertiveness skills you talked about with your therapist last week. How helpful would it be to have a resource to reference if you don’t meet with your therapist for another week?
It can also be helpful to keep notes to review throughout your time in therapy to see the progress you are making. Looking back on previous notes might give you a sense of just how far you’ve come!
4. Ask Questions
Each therapist is different, but therapy shouldn’t be all that mysterious and complicated. If you have a question about why a therapist is asking the questions they are asking, or giving you the homework they are recommending, ask! I like to “pull back the curtain” with my clients and involve them in education about why I’m recommending certain things to them.
I wish you wellness and self-kindness in your therapy journey!