Usually people come to therapy because they are in distress and want to experience some change in their lives. While the quality of a therapist or the therapeutic approach can play a large role in the benefits gained from therapy, clients also have A LOT of control over how helpful therapy can be.
In this blog post, I will outline 10 ways to get the most out of therapy and how to see benefits from treatment sooner.
1. Choose a therapist or psychologist wisely. Do research about types of therapy or mental health treatment available in your area. Shop around for a therapist whose treatment approach and interpersonal tone you like. The fit between your current difficulties, the therapist and type of therapy you seek is really important. Learning about your options ahead of time can help you find a great fit faster. You might narrow your search about types of treatment to seek based on what treatments are recommended by verified and esteemed organizations like the American Psychological Association or American Psychiatric Association. If you are struggling with Anxiety, Depression, PTSD (and many other difficulties), the gold-standard treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. For more information about CBT, read our recent blog post. For other difficulties, other approaches may be more appropriate.
2. Schedule sessions at a convenient time. Having a busy schedule can make it difficult to have a “perfect” time for therapy. Instead of trying to find a "perfect" time, you might find times that are better or worse for you. Consider times during the day when you might be able to be more emotionally present and times you are able to turn your phone off (before work, mid-morning, during lunch hour, evening hours). Think of specific hours when you have the ability to step away from other responsibilities to focus solely on your wellness. Alternatively, consider times in the day with some flexibility that may allow you to create some buffer before returning to other responsibilities that are highly demanding.
3. Be on time to sessions. Therapy sessions are typically 45-50 minutes. Time often goes by quickly during sessions so being punctual assures that you are getting the most out of each appointment. Showing up 15 minutes late might not seem like a big deal; however, it may be more than a third of a therapy session, which is quite a lot.
4. Be consistent with sessions. The effectiveness of mental health treatment is often diluted when sessions are infrequent. Even during periods of heavy travel or busy work schedules, it is possible to keep the momentum going in treatment. In fact, some providers offer HIPPA-encrypted tele-therapy sessions to accommodate work or personal travel so that progress in treatment is not stalled. Click here to inquire about this option at the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center of the Palm Beaches in Boca Raton.
5. Collaboratively identify clear goals for treatment. The clearer the goals you have for treatment, the more easily you and your therapist can determine a treatment plan to get you the benefit you want. In addition, identifying clear goals makes it possible to determine progress towards those goals. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, symptom measures are conducted frequently to assess progress in treatment and to fine-tune treatment techniques to most directly target your difficulties. Your therapist can also help you generate goals if you are not quite sure what you want to accomplish in therapy.
6. Think ahead. Before each therapy session, come up with specific questions or topics you’d like to bring up during your next session. This helps clients be more intentional about how session time is spent. Questions can be about your last therapy session, about practice assignments or about some direction you and your therapist identified to focus on in the future. Being prepared for sessions, including having questions or agenda items you’d like to address, will help you and your therapist stay focused on what is most important.
7. Ask questions. Some clients find themselves wanting to be a “good client” and go along with therapy without asking questions or correcting a therapist if they don’t agree with something said. In order to have therapy be really meaningful, ask questions! Get clarification about the techniques being used, the theory behind the techniques, ask about exactly how therapy will be helpful and why specific practice assignments are provided. Ask for support in completing practice assignments if you find you’re not sure how or where to start. Asking questions is also a great way to practice being more assertive and asking for your needs to be met.
8. Do your practice assignments. One method that facilitates improvement in mental health symptoms more quickly is the use of practice assignments. Practice assignments are essential in helping clients translate what is discussed and practiced in therapy sessions into where clients spend most of their time- in their lives! Schedule time in your calendar to complete practice assignments for therapy the same way you would schedule other activities into your personal calendar. Also, be proactive! While you may be assigned specific practice assignments based on your current goals, you can also try to find opportunities to apply the same principles of your practice assignments in other situations in your life to increase the generalizability of the skills you are learning.
9. Be as open as possible. Often clients experience fear or shame when considering talking about difficulties they are having or concerns they feel they shouldn’t have. This is understandable. Everyone experiences some fears regarding how they are perceived by others. At the same time, know that if your therapist or psychologist doesn’t know that you are having particular difficulties, they won’t be able to help you with them. Your provider’s reaction to what you share is also important information about the fit and that provider’s comfort or expertise with a particular difficulty. Openness also refers to being communicative about the therapy process and your relationship with your therapist. Specifically, if you disagree with something your therapist said or if your therapist angered you, or if you were frustrated by some element of a session, use therapy to discuss these concerns. The therapeutic relationship is an excellent opportunity to learn about how we tend to relate with others (avoiding conflict, withholding grievances, suppressing emotions), and to practice new ways of relating that may be more direct, open and effective.
10. Know that change won’t happen overnight. Even the most skilled therapist or psychologist will not be able to help a client generate all of the change a client wants instantly. The most efficient forms of therapy can take several months in order to have real, lasting benefit. Determine a timeline with your therapist of when you can expect to experience some observable changes and track your symptoms. If you collaboratively determine a timeline for therapy and are not seeing the intended gains made, do speak with your therapist about this and share your concerns.
If you live in Boca Raton or in the greater Palm Beach County area and area looking for an expert CBT psychologist, contact the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center of the Palm Beaches at firstname.lastname@example.org or (561) 299-0383.