7 WAYS TO CREATE A GOOD THERAPY EXPERIENCE
Therapy is a big investment and not a walk in the park. It is often time-limited, and certain phases of life are great times to seek therapy. To make the most of this healing corridor, here are 7 ways to create a good therapy experience as a client.
1) Be real in therapy, be honest about how you’re feeling. Notice what is coming up – in your life, in the therapy sessions and the relationship with your therapist.
2) Set a clear focus in therapy, your ‘treatment plan’ it’s called. What you are working to change or improve? Revisit this plan often, stay on track. What would it look like to be complete? What would that give you? You should be able to see progress on this goal as you go along.
3) Keep a notebook, notepad or list of the things that come up during the week that would be relevant and useful to explore with your therapist. That includes conflicts, progress and wins, ahas and insights, big emotions and moods.
4) Take time during the week for homework and reflection. Try new tools like expressing yourself or asking for help. Try new approaches like meditation, working with thoughts, staying neutral or open with negative emotions and moods.
5) Show up to any tension or challenges that come up in therapy. You may need to challenge your therapist, too. How to do this? Try saying things like, “This felt strange to me last session”… “I wanted to discuss how therapy is going now”… “I’m finding I’m not sure how therapy is helping me / if I’m making much progress”… It’s often helpful to check in like this along the way. Sharing progress or things you’re noticing for the better – that’s also very welcome.
6) Plan ahead / share early on what you’d like to focus on. Bring this up early in the session, especially if it’s a challenge area. Often clients may wait until near the end of the session to ask questions or address important areas. Naming your ideas early on works better.
7) Take time for a clear ending. Bad endings and communi-cation break downs are more the rule than the exception in life. This can be true in therapy too, if you’re not careful. Honor your work and investment by having at least one session to end. This is an advanced skill in using therapy well. Even if you’re taking a break for now, it’s good to summarize and finalize this phase of your work.
HOW TO END THERAPY
The final session is where you review the therapy – what went well and what you learned. You can get and give feedback. When you’ve had a good experience and a good ending, you know you can come back any time things come up. Perhaps you’d like a tune up or refresher. That’s a great support to have in life. If you do hit a major challenge, you can get support right away versus needing to research again and wait for an appointment for weeks or months. Good endings in life build resilience, as often facing endings is a challenge, but pretty unavoidable.
WHAT IF YOU HAVE A BAD EXPERIENCE
When you have a bad experience or a less than satisfying outcome from therapy, don’t give up. You’re human, therapists are human. It’s usually not about bad intentions. This may have been an introduction from which you’ll create a better experience. Therapists are also learning how to be their best. It’s OK to see a new therapist. It would be good to note in the next round of interviews what didn’t work so well.
Think about it – when people hire coaches, they don’t stop after their first experience. It often gets better as they grow their experience, and learn how to hone that coaching container so it works best for them.
SET YOUR COURSE – THEN TWEAK IT
You may have heard the analogy of how pilots flying planes set their course. Once the course is set, they have to constantly watch and correct it as they go. Isn’t that wild? It’s not just “autopilot” after all. Good therapy takes conscious and caring input and feedback all along the way. Ideally, it’s an active collaboration. While it’s natural to hesitate at first, or feel shy when some course correction might be needed, it’s get easier. It can really deepen after those moments of redesigning or speaking up about something you need. Tweak away! Express your side of what’s happening. Share any needs that aren’t getting met or questions that have arisen. You’ll develop more skills to use in the rest of your more fulfilled and authentic life.
What else would be helpful to know about creating the best therapy experience? How has getting started in therapy been challenging?