How to get the most out of therapy
I can't tell you how many times I've heard some version of “I was in therapy for years and never got anywhere.” Unfortunately, so many people spend a lot of time and money in therapy and experience little personal growth. This is frustrating for me as a therapist because many people are hesitant to try therapy out again, but mostly it saddens me for the people who are seeking services and not receiving the help they need.
I know the courage it takes to step into a therapist’s office. You are agreeing to dive into your psyche. Plowing through the trenches if your soul. Well, maybe that's not exactly what you had in mind. More often than not someone just wants to create change. And that's ok. Therapy can be incredibly powerful, no matter how big or small the concern or issue at hand.
There's a lot of ways that change can happen, but therapy is nonetheless deep, personal work that requires conscious commitments for true progress to occur. The biggest factor, by far, in determining your success in therapy is the relationship you are able to build with your counselor. Seriously, research had proven that the techniques are not nearly as important as the relationship. Think about that relationship for a minute.
There is no other relationship in your life that you will ever have that is as unique as the one with a therapist. As a therapist, the core of my work comes from being completely present with the person sitting in front of me. I have to leave my emotions, my opinions, my past, my current stress, my pain at the door, in order to effectively hold the space for the person in front of me. You will never be able to duplicate this relationship in the real world because it can't exist in a healthy way, but in that room, it's vital.
My (or any conscious therapist’s) ability to be present with you offers you the space to feel, think out loud, and share without judgement, without attack, without fear. Isn't that kinda cool? I sure think so. Let me be real for a second, it's not always easy and it's definitely not perfect, but it's worth it. If you find the right therapist for you, you will be given an opportunity to truly get connected with your Self and learn to trust and honor you, as well as heal from your past and prepare for your future. Not too shabby eh?
But sometimes it doesn't always go as planned. That's why it's imperative that you learn to advocate for yourself by taking the first step toward consciously creating personal growth. Don't rely on the therapist to know what direction you need to go in. That's an inside job. She (or he) is there to offer space, support, and guidance, never to tell you what to do.
I want to share with you 4 steps to consciously create the therapeutic experience you want and no longer feel like you're wasting your time.
After all, it's all about you.
Have a goal
Be specific. Examples: Are you looking to heal from a past wound, do you struggle with anxiety and want to learn skills to create a shift? Do you need help learning to communicate to get your needs met? Do you want someone to talk to in order to feel safe exploring your emotions? What do you want? It's time to get honest with yourself before you even walk through the door.
How long do you see yourself in therapy for? Do you want to have this figured out in 2 months? 6 months? A year? Knowing a guesstimate of how long you expect to be in therapy for (realistically depending on your goals of course) will help you be more focused and motivated for step 3.
3. Outside inside work
You're going to commit to creating conscious constant internal shifts outside of therapy. Therapy occurs at least one hour per week, the other 167 hours are up to you. Therapy is a commitment to your Self. You have to be prepared to consciously create shifts moment by moment, in order to experience growth.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask about the experience she has with the issue you're presenting with. What techniques/styles/theories will be used. Is she onboard with your needs? What are her expectations of you? How does she view the therapeutic relationship? Does she follow a medical or holistic model?
Interview her! This relationship could propel you toward fluid (maybe choppy) shifts and you deserve to have the right person for you in your corner.
Take control of your mental health (and life) by asking yourself these questions and trusting in the answer. If you're ready to commit and have goals in mind, then take the plunge. Advocate for yourself and be open. I hope you are able to find someone to hold the space for you and increase your own consciousness by self connection. You got this!
p.s. therapy is not for everyone and it's not one size fits all. If it feels right, give it a shot. If not, do what works for you and leave the rest.