You’ve decided to start therapy? Entering into a course of therapy with the goal of a better life can be a radical act of self-care in the midst of busy, urban life. Clearly you want to make the most of it so here are some important questions to explore:
How Long is Therapy going to take?
As a time crunched society, we are encouraged to work more efficiently, produce faster outcomes, and juggle an ever-increasing amount of day-to-day activities. It is easy to want to transfer this pace into the therapy room.
It’s important to keep in mind that the therapeutic process works similarly to any important relationship. The most effective therapy happens when there is safety and trust established between therapist and client and this can take time to develop. While it may be tempting to fantasize about instantaneous results, this process requires patience, honesty, courage and presence.
If the relationship is good enough, return on your investment can come in a few sessions and continue to yield results over the next several months. Some people choose to stay in therapy for years…while this may not be for you, it certainly isn’t uncommon. Some forms of therapy however, have a set number of sessions. CBT, EMDR, the Gottman Approach for couples can have a set number of sessions over 8-10 weeks. If you are someone who is uncomfortable with the idea of long term therapy, you may want to look for a time limited therapy.
How do I Choose a Therapist?
When starting therapy it is important to choose a therapist you can envision having difficult conversations with, maybe some you have never had with anyone before. The best fit is likely someone with whom you can be honest without fearing judgement. Many clients look for things like age, gender, sexual orientation, cultural background and degree type as important factors in making that kind of decision.
How Do I Make the Most out of My Sessions?
- If there are things you are afraid to talk about, write these down on a piece of paper or keep a journal for your therapy. Consider bringing this journal to session.
- Think about your goals for therapy and make sure to communicate them with your therapist.
- Throughout the week, try to put into practice the things you talk about in session.
- If possible, as you head to your session, allow for some quiet time to check in with yourself, perhaps closing your eyes and feeling into what is happening in your internal world.
- Allow for silence once in a while. Although extended silence can be uncomfortable, try resisting automatically filling the void with words and allow the words to find themselves. Much insight can be found when we step outside of our routine, and ‘go-to’ reactions.
- Be willing to look at yourself deeply and accept that some discomfort in the process is inevitable.
- After the session, allow some time to reflect, either with your therapist or alone to think about what was most valuable or helpful during your time together. This meta-processing can help solidify the insight gained during a session. You may also reflect on what didn’t get talked about and what you might like more space for next time.
Taking these steps can help you get the most benefit from the time, energy and money you are investing in yourself for a better, more satisfying life.