How to Get the Most Out of Therapy, According to a Psychologist

How to Get the Most Out of Therapy, According to a Psychologist

Considering we’re all living in the Bad Place right now, it’s not surprising to know that loads of people have either signed up for or considered therapy. There is a long list of benefits that come with chatting things out with a therapist, but how can you be sure you’re getting the most out of the experience once you’re there?

If you’re investing your time and money into therapy, you want to know that you’re going to see the best possible results for your mental health – even if it is a slow process. Lysn psychologist Veronica West shared her top tips for effective therapy with us over email. Here’s what she had to say.

5 tips that’ll help you get the most out of therapy

therapy tips

Find a psychologist that’s the right fit for you

Anyone who has had a positive experience with therapy will tell you it’s largely due to finding the right psychologist. It’s not unlike dating, really. You’ve got to connect so you feel comfortable opening up.

West explained, “My number one tip is to take some time to understand what psychologists or other mental health professionals are available in your area. Of course, there are times where you may not have the luxury of picking the psychologist (this may be the case when accessing supports in hospital or other government settings for example), however, in most instances the matching of the client to the right psychologist is a big part of maximising the benefits of therapy for you as a client.”

She explained that it can be useful to check out the practice website to get a sense of their areas of expertise. West also highlighted that some places will ask you to take a quiz to help match you with a psychologist, and you can always call to ask a few questions ahead of time, too.

Clarify your goals for therapy

“You may be accessing therapy for a range of different reasons, however regardless of what has brought you to therapy, an important step in getting the most out of your sessions is to have an idea of goals that you are wanting to achieve as part of the process,” West said.

While she stressed that you don’t need your whole journey planned out (that’s impossible) it’s a good idea to have a think about “what success in therapy looks like for you”.

It’s a good way to start work with your psychologist too, as they’ll know where to focus their attention.

Take part in setting the ‘agenda’ for the session

It can feel kind of odd figuring out what you want to discuss in each therapy session, especially if you’re discussing issues on the fly. With that considered, West said that it can be really helpful to think ahead of time about what you’d like to cover in session.

“Coming prepared with an idea of things you want to focus on or discuss in session for each appointment also helps you maintain momentum in therapy and to continue to work towards those bigger goals. Of course, it is not solely your responsibility to have an agenda decided for each session, but if you take an active role in setting the agenda together with your psychologist at the start of each session, I can assure you that you are much more likely to leave your sessions feeling content and supported,” she said.

Take notes during therapy

Maybe you have a memory of steel, but chances are you’ll cover a fair bit of ground during therapy sessions so if anything strikes a chord with you, jot it down.

West explained that “it is often 50 minutes to an hour of intense conversation, lots of information and a variety of emotions. By taking down notes in session of information that clicks with you, or information that is important for you to remember for tasks or strategies discussed in session that you may wish to implement in between appointments you give yourself the best possible chance of walking away with real and actionable information that is applicable to you in your day-to-day life.”

This will also make it easier to remember your homework, which brings us to our final point.

Do the work in between sessions

“Most forms of therapy will have some components of ‘homework’ or tasks and strategies you can engage in between sessions to practice skills and abilities you are working on in therapy outside of the therapy room,” West shared.

Some people may not see the point in this, but West compared it to exercise. If you workout with a personal trainer once a week, you’ll learn some stuff, sure. But if you combine that workout with your own sessions, you’ll get better results.

She shared that if you “choose to engage in strategies and tasks in between sessions, you will see the results quicker, and will also build skills that will last well past the resolution of the issue you might be attending therapy for in the first place”.

And if it still isn’t working out?

There are times that even when applying all the above, you’ll find therapy is not working for you. West highlighted that if you leave “sessions feeling deflated or frustrated”, if you cancel appointments “or feel a sense of dread” ahead of them, there are a few things she suggests.

  • Check-in on your goals: “Perhaps you are attending therapy without a clear sense of direction or goals in place. I would encourage you to raise the issue with your psychologist and let them know that you feel like you are not moving in the direction you had hoped. Often a review (and potentially a change) of the goals of therapy can be the easiest way to get therapy back on track again.”
  • Talk to your psychologist about the form of therapy utilised: “Perhaps the therapy modality chosen simply is not a good fit for you. Regardless of why you are attending therapy, there are numerous psychotherapies designed to address different symptoms and concerns. Changing it up and trying a new format and strategies may be just what you need.”
  • Don’t be afraid to change psychologists: “One of the biggest predictors of success in therapy is the relationship and fit between clinician and client. If you feel like your current psychologist is not the right fit for you it may simply be time to move on and try a different professional. If the practice you are attending is a bigger practice, it may be as simple as having a chat to the reception team to see if they can recommend another psychologist at the practice for you. There are no hard feelings here, and you should never feel like you have to stick with a psychologist for their sake.”

Just remember you have options and your mental health is the priority here, so always keep that front of mind.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. In an emergency, call 000. If you are concerned about your health, speak to your GP who will be able to advise a correct treatment plan.

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