Making the decision to start therapy is a huge one. Congratulations! If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re ready for something different. Working with a therapist is a fantastic way to support your mental health and cope with whatever is going on in your life, from interpersonal conflict to mental illness and everything in between. Therapy is an investment and it’s natural to want to make sure you’re getting the most you can from your therapy sessions.
Even though it can be exciting to care for yourself by going to therapy, it’s natural to be nervous about making changes. That’s especially if you’ve never worked with a therapist before! Therapy is vulnerable and emotional and involves lots of self-reflection and honesty. It requires trying new things and going outside your comfort zone.
If you’ve decided to explore therapy and you’re wondering how to make the most of it, here are 5 tips to help you make the most of your therapy sessions:
Stick with it
Like many things in life, therapy takes time. It’s absolutely fine to look for a new therapist if you find the one you’re working with isn’t meeting your needs, but in order for you to see real changes happen, you need to stick with therapy for a while. Whatever you need to do to make sure you prioritize your therapy appointments and stick with it, do it! You’re investing a lot of time, energy, money, and emotions into the therapy process, and to get a return on that investment it’s important to commit to a regular schedule.
Communicate with your therapist
If you’ve been in therapy for a long time but aren’t seeing progress the way you want, it’s okay to talk about that with your therapist! Your therapist will be better able to support you if you can tell them what is working and what isn’t working for you so they can adjust their approach if needed. It’s also helpful to check in with your therapist regularly about your progress and goals. Not only can this help you stay focused on what you want to work through in the therapy room, but it also gives you a chance to pat yourself on the back for all the hard work you’ve done and how far you’ve come.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember what you covered in a therapy session during the week. It can be helpful to keep a notepad or a note open on a device so you can jot down notes. Taking notes can help remind you what you discussed, suggestions or questions your therapist had, suggestions or questions you have, or anything else that will help keep what you talked about fresh in your mind when you review it.
Reflect after sessions
If taking notes during a session is not your thing, that’s okay! Give yourself a buffer of a few minutes to a half hour after your therapy appointment and try to write down anything that stuck out to you or that you want to mull over further. It can even be helpful to write a full journal entry reflecting on your therapy session to help reinforce what you discussed and make sense of any questions or reflections you have. This can help you integrate concepts that you talked about, release any leftover thoughts, and give you a space to reflect that’s totally yours. You don’t have to keep a handwritten journal – you can keep a note on your phone, use an app, or even keep voice memos where you talk it out instead of writing. Explore and find what works for you!
Implement what you talked about
Spending one hour a week in the therapy room is a great start, but the real work happens outside the therapy room. The time between sessions is when you can implement what you talked about in session. It gives you an opportunity to to try new skills or techniques that you learned in therapy. Making changes takes practice, so make time to practice if you want to get the most out of therapy.
Therapy is one way to take care of yourself, and practicing self-care between sessions can help you feel more prepared to do the kind of work that goes on in the therapy room. Therapy is intense in a lot of ways, and you might have sessions where you talk about some deep and heavy stuff. Knowing that you’ve got your own back and will be taking care of yourself is a way to show yourself love. After a therapy session is the perfect time to love on yourself.
Taking care of yourself doesn’t just include the Instagrammable kind of self-care. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself, but self-care also means meeting your needs to keep yourself in a good place. This means take your meds, move your body, nourish yourself, drink lots of water, maintain social connections, find ways to self-soothe, and give yourself time to focus on the present moment at least a little bit each day.