Top 5 Tips for Getting the Most out of Therapy

By Halifax Psychologist, Brad Peters

Top 5 Tips for Clients in TherapySo you’ve decided to embark on a course of therapy. It will be a commitment of time, energy, and finances. Yes, you could do a lot of other things with the money it will cost for a handful of sessions, but the potential payoffs are huge. What price would you pay to feel different – to relieve emotional suffering and feel vibrant again – or to significantly improve an important relationship?

There are no guarantees with therapy. But there are some things that you can do to make the most of your investment; here are my Top 5 Tips for Clients in Therapy:

1. Make it about you: We can’t change the world or other people, so spending too much time talking about external problems will likely be a waste of your time and money; if therapy becomes nothing more than a place to vent, little will change. Another way of putting this is to remind you that your spouse, friend, co-worker, or family member is not in therapy – you are. So own it. What part do you play? What do you want to get out of the appointments? Is it to feel happy again, to not be a pushover in relationships, or to be in better touch with your feelings? Clearly articulating your personal goals will give you and your psychologist something to focus on and work toward.

2. First rule of therapy – talk about therapy: This may be scary for some people, but I swear it is one of the best ways to make the most of therapy. Try not to treat the therapy work as something that happens in a silo. De-brief with someone – a partner, friend, or family member – after the sessions. Talk with them and mull over what happened in the appointment. Share with them any possible insights you’ve had, and see if they have anything to contribute. Let them know what you are trying to do and suggest how they could support you. In addition to helping you stay focused on the therapy work, these conversations are usually a great way to build trust and intimacy in those relationships outside of therapy.

3. Work outside of therapy: Use what you get from therapy to challenge yourself outside of the sessions. Throw yourself into new situations and difficult experiences. For example, if you are working on being more assertive, try to hold your ground against a domineering personality. In your next session, you can report back on what the obstacles were, what got in the way (e.g. anxiety, guilt), and trouble-shoot how you might overcome them in the future.

4. Talk with your psychologist about process: Make sure you and your therapist ‘check-in’ from time-to-time about how the process of therapy is going. What seems to be working? What isn’t? Do you feel comfortable enough with your psychologist? Do you both have a working understanding of the goals, the underlying issues, and a reasonable plan to overcome them? If something doesn’t feel right, it needs to be addressed as soon as possible; otherwise therapy may get stuck and become unproductive – eating up your time and money.

5. Invite a significant-other to therapy: Sometimes it can help to have a significant-other (e.g. partner, friend, family member) join a session. It is an opportunity for you and your therapist to get some feedback on how you are experienced by important others. It may also be helpful for your significant-other to have a deeper understanding of what you struggle with – making them more inclined to empathize and offer support. In my experience, these sessions are almost always helpful, and can often accelerate the therapy process.

Do you have other thoughts or suggestions on how to make the most of therapy? If so, please add them below.

Brad Peters

Brad is a Halifax Psychologist at Cornerstone Psychological Services. He is also a part-time psychology professor at Saint Mary's University; academic interests include human personality, theoretical psychology, and philosophy of mind.

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