Making the Most of Therapy
How to leverage your short therapy sessions
As it is the time of the year where I am shopping for a new therapist again, I have decided to make an in-depth guide on how to make the most of therapy.
First off, it is important to say that when you are in therapy, you will most likely only get to delve into one area of your mental health and life. The most you can see a therapist is usually 2-3 times a week around 30 to 60 minutes each session. This means that there is a limited amount of time to really discuss anything.
Don’t forget that your relationship with your therapist is like meeting a stranger from square one. They know nothing about you, so when you do mention something in the first 10-15 sessions, you are going to have to provide all the context possible. If you mention a traumatic experience, the therapist will need to know the answers to many contextual questions. What led up to it? Why did it take so long for you to get to therapy? The list goes on. In other words, it will be difficult to secure good counseling from the get go. You are doing a lot of explaining.
What this means is that if you do choose to pursue therapy, the most effective way in which you can solve a problem in your life is if you go in knowing what’s wrong and what it is you’re looking for. You usually do know what the issue is. For instance, if you are going in because you feel unfulfilled by your career, you already know what the issue is and what the steps to take are. You are really in therapy to understand what about your career is making you unfulfilled, why you have stuck it out so long, and many other questions. Having all of this in mind makes it easier to know what you are looking for. Perhaps you need a therapist who will just uncover the reasons you are afraid to make a change and advise you in that direction. Or perhaps you need a therapist that will uncover why you may be unfulfilled overall and your career is just an additional burden. There are so many variations of what you may be going through, which is why I suggest getting to know yourself first. Don’t rely on the therapist to uncover who you are for you unless this is your first time going to therapy.
When you are at therapy, I suggest that you ask the therapist if you can record the conversation. This is completely dependent on whether the therapist is comfortable doing so or not. But after years of therapy, I have realized that I may hear something profound in therapy, and then forget it after walking out the door. Therapy is a sacred time to talk about yourself and learn about yourself, when else do you get to do this? In other words, it will be so easy to forget because you are learning something new. So ask the therapist if you can record the conversation.
I’d stay away from taking notes because you may have noticed that a therapist who takes avid notes seems distracted. It’s just like a doctor taking avid notes and seemingly forgetting that medicine is an interactive field! I’d advise immediately sitting down somewhere and writing down everything you have heard, learned, feel confused about, and everything else. Since it is the days of telehealth, it is the excellent opportunity for you to do so right away!
Basically, these are the tips:
- Time with a therapist is limited. Initial sessions are flooded with contextual questions. Know what you are going in for.
- Question what area of your mental health you want to prioritize - yes, this is necessary. Are you going to tackle your insomnia issues stemming from some past trauma? Or are you going to tackle your weight issues stemming from a broken self-image?
- Ask to record conversation. If you can’t, immediately document what has happened after the session!