| Written by: Nick Puchalski, LMFT |
Is this your first time seeking therapy? Have you been to a therapist before and felt you did not get the support or help you were looking for? Are you currently in therapy, but question if it is even effective? If you find yourself in any of these situations, you are not alone and I want to help!
Far too often when I ask my clients whether or not they have attended therapy before, it is answered with a “yes, but…” or a half-smirk or a burst of laughter as they go on to recall unpleasant, and often uncomfortable, memories of prior therapy experiences. When I follow-up with the question ‘how long did you stay’, clients report staying anywhere from three months to a year…or more. There are a lot of skilled, amazing therapists but there are definitely some that are just not a great fit for you and what you want and need at this time in your life.
My heart goes out to those clients that have continued to show up, risk and endure through less-than-helpful therapy. It is typically at this moment in our sessions that I let them know that they are not alone, and that this is unfortunately a common experience. I also share with them the 7 tips that I have included below, to help them get the most out of our sessions.
As much as therapy can be insightful, fulfilling, and healing—it can demand a lot of our attention, time, energy, emotion, and money. If we keep returning to less-than-helpful therapy hoping that ‘it might change soon’ or thinking ‘this is just what therapy is’, or ‘maybe its just me’, we waste our valuable resources.
Below are 7 tips to help you get the best results from therapy:
- Advocate for your needs. Let your therapist know if things aren’t working or if you feel you are not progressing in therapy. Speak up, even if it feels scary! Think of this as part of your growth and challenge to yourself. You are worth getting your needs met and asserting yourself.
- Have a good fit with your therapist. Feeling comfortable with your therapist is more important than we might initially think! Bring it to your therapist’s attention if you feel you aren’t jiving with each other. Even therapeutic relationships can take time—know the difference between this, and when the relationship is simply not a good fit and you need to move on. Your therapist should be willing to help you find someone that’s a better match.
- Create consistency. One of the biggest indicators of success in therapy is the client’s consistency and commitment. Make sure that you are consistent with your sessions (i.e. weekly sessions), especially early in the therapy process. Once solid progress has been made, have a conversation with your therapist about how often you should be attending therapy. Research shows the positive impact regular sessions has versus intermittent appointments.
- Come prepared. Whether it’s the initial intake or a weekly session, come prepared. This often means doing work outside of the session, which might include practicing skills learned, processing your previous therapy session, or simply preparing yourself mentally, spiritually, emotionally to do the best work you can do at each therapy appointment.
- Get connected. In the words of poet John Donne, “no man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent a part of the main.” Having a support system is vital during the therapy process. Get or stay connected to those that you can count on and that support the hard work you are doing. You can even request that your therapist communicate or connect with your outside supports.
- Lean into discomfort. Being asked to go deep within ourselves, and risk being vulnerable, is often a new and uncomfortable feeling—yet, this is where the good stuff happens! When we lean into the discomfort, change is inevitable.
- Find joy in the process! In therapy it is often said, “sometimes things get worse before they get better”. If we can anticipate failures, barriers or relapse, the impact these can have on us will be greatly reduced. It is important to celebrate the small victories, which can bring us joy even in our shortcomings; joy and hope fuel us and move us towards a happier and healthier future.
We want to help you find the right therapist for your therapy journey!
If you would like to discuss any of this information, you can schedule a free meet and greet with our therapists by calling 480-256-2999 or texting 480-256-2829.