How To Get The Most Out Of Therapy
How amazing is it that going to therapy is now considered cool?!
As an MD Psychotherapist + Women’s Mental Health Expert (and the owner of a virtual mental health clinic Eunoia Medical), I am a STRONG believer in the power of therapy.
In fact, therapy and a stool softener will handle most of the crap you deal with in your life. 😂 (Pun intended.)
If you are someone who is going to therapy or who is considering therapy, it’s important to make sure you’re not wasting your time, money or insured session.
But therapy isn’t a “natural” thing for many people and it can be hard to know how to prepare so that you can get the most out of your sessions with your therapist.
So in this post, I have compiled some of my best tips so you can learn how to get the most out of therapy.
If you’d like to listen to the podcast associated with this blog post, head on over to Mind Over Motherhood or stream wherever you listen to podcasts!
Tip #1: Set your goals for therapy.
If you don’t know what destination (or destinations) you’re hoping to reach when you’re on a road trip, you won’t have much for guidance on where to go. In therapy (and in most places in your life), it’s important to lay out some goals for why you’re doing the therapy in the first place. Without some ideas of what you’re trying to achieve, you’ll never know if you’ve met those goals. You’ll also possibly waste your own time (and money.)
So before you start therapy with your new therapist, consider what your goals are for your sessions together.
Here are some common goals I’ve heard from my clients and patients:
- Learn how to handle overwhelming moments better so they are not so snappy with their kids
- Develop a more consistent self-care habit
- Process trauma so that they no longer feel so reactive and depleted
- Learn skills to quiet and manage anxious thoughts so panic attacks are reduced
It’s completely OK if you don’t know exactly what it will take to meet your therapy goals. That’s what a good therapist does.
However, it is vital to have an idea of what you want to work on and how you want to feel, so you can take the right steps to get there.
Tip #2: Be accountable and responsible for your own progress.
It also isn’t enough just to set some goals for therapy.
There are some practical steps that you should take responsibility for when it comes to your own therapy and healing.
First of all, book appointments and show up for them.
One of these things is booking appointments regularly, or at the scheduled frequency that you and your therapist agree on and then showing up on time. This seems simple, but it’s often neglected.
In my practice (whether it’s in Eunoia Medical or in my family practice), I have always said the same thing: If you are committed to your own healing, I will be the best partner you can find in your journey, but I will not work harder than you for your own health and wellness.
I do not chase patients and I do not take responsibility for your healing.
If you do not book your follow up appointments as previously planned, you are responsible for that.
If you show up late or miss an appointment, I will hold you accountable to the missed appointment policies that you previously agreed to.
If you do not do the work you were going to do, I will still love you and welcome you back to your sessions, but I will continuously expect you to do what you say you were going to do.
This is not to be harsh, but it’s to call you up to the better version of yourself that you want to be, and that I know you can be.
It’s also how I model healthy boundaries for clients, which is a vital thing for them to develop in themselves.
If I were to rush around making schedule changes and accommodating every client who forgot her appointment or didn’t prioritize it, I would not be upholding and maintaining the same boundaries that I am often helping them create in their own lives.
I would also be doing my clients a disservice by not expecting them to take responsibility for their own mental health.
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Tip #3: Find someone with whom you can really, really connect (not just who “seems good”).
I’ve often referred to a therapist and client relationship like a puzzle. The pieces have to fit in the right way to create the picture.
More often than not, I’ve heard from women who went to one therapist but never went back because it “wasn’t a good fit.”
A good therapeutic relationship and therapeutic outcome depends on the connection and rapport between the client and patient.
If you don’t feel like your therapist understands your issue completely, or if you’re not resonating with their approach to the issues you’re struggling with, it’s important to find someone who does.
Now, I identify that some people do not have the choice to try a new therapist due to financial or other constraints. It may be a challenge in situations where you have limited options for therapists, such as through an employee assistance program or what’s available to be covered by your government health plan.
In these situations, I remind clients that having one bad experience with one therapist does not mean therapy never works or is not for you.
It’s important to look into what other options are available and ask for referrals to other therapists if yours doesn’t feel like a fit.
Tip #4: Evaluate when things are not working and talk to your therapist about it.
Effective therapy requires that both client and therapist take ownership of the process.
This means that it’s your responsibility as a client to reflect back to your therapist what is not working or what is not effective for you.
If your therapist doesn’t seem to understand what you’re saying, or is using a strategy that you’re not finding to be of benefit for you, it’s important to let them know.
Furthermore, it is my belief that a good therapist is focused on ensuring the client gets the best support for their issues, even if they themselves are not the one to provide it.
Sometimes the client and therapist are just not a good fit for each other. A good therapist should recognize that a therapeutic connection is not dependent on someone’s specific personality, and a client not finding therapy effective does not mean the therapist is a bad therapist.
As I mentioned before, a client and therapist need to “click” in order for therapy to effective, and it’s not personal if that doesn’t happen.
I have spoken to some women who either continued attending therapy to avoid offending their therapist, or just never returned the call/never showed up again because they didn’t want to “break up with their therapist.” Therapists (the good ones at least) are professionals and at least for myself, my feelings are not hurt if a client doesn’t find my therapy style effective for them.
Therefore, one way to get the most out of therapy is to be honest about when things aren’t working and tell your therapist.
Now, the one caveat I have to this is that sometimes women simply don’t want their therapist to challenge them or encourage them to examine hard things in their life. This is not what I am talking about in this situation. Sometimes a situation feels uncomfortable but it’s exactly what you need to work through whatever is bothering you. It’s important to evaluate whether the person doing the therapy is truly not a fit for you, or if you are simply uncomfortable about what the therapist is suggesting. These are two very different things.
Tip #5: Do The Work Outside of Therapy
What good is the time you’ve spent in therapy, if you neglect all of the work for the rest of the time?
As part of my therapy sessions with clients, I almost always provide them with some things to focus on during sessions. It doesn’t do them much good if they completely ignore all of those suggestions and just carry on like they were before.
The point of therapy is to make changes in our behaviours, thoughts and actions so that the client can feel better/be happier/be calmer, etc.
But therapy is not a magic wand, and simply going to therapy won’t fix the issues you’re dealing with if you don’t do the work yourself.
It can be helpful to bring a notepad to your sessions and be prepared to write down some highlights from the session.
If you and/or your therapist come up with some items to focus on for the weeks between sessions, write those down also and put them in a place that you will see them often.
By doing the work outside of your sessions, you will be able to maximize your time spent in therapy and make more progress over time.
You’ll also be able to reflect back to your therapist what new discoveries you made as you implemented the suggestions, which only further deepens your self-awareness and healing.
Tip #6: Bring Your Honest Self
It is not doing you any good to bring a false version of yourself to therapy.
If you are genuinely and authentically seeking to manage your symptoms effectively and feel better, it is important that your therapist completely understand who you are.
Of course it will take time before the client-therapist relationship develops to that level, but you’re not doing yourself any favours if you’re hiding important things about yourself from your therapist.
Be honest about your emotions and thoughts.
Bring up questions and concerns.
Tell your therapist how strategies work and what is not working.
It can feel very vulnerable to open up to someone in this way as you may not have done so before, but I promise you it is so valuable.
The beautiful thing about therapy is that the right therapist will see you for who you are without judgement or bias. Where else do you have this in your life?
Tip #7: Trust the Process and Give it Time.
Unravelling deeply embedded behaviour patterns, developing self-care habits and healing from old wounds and traumas take time.
In our fast paced, productivity-obsessed society, therapy can seem like “just another thing to do.”
It can be tempting to think that an hour or two will “fix” a lifetime of false thoughts or negative coping strategies.
Sometimes you may think that the process will be easy and painless.
Anyone who has ever committed fully to the therapeutic process can attest to the fact that neither of these things are true.
Healing takes time and is sometimes uncomfortable. When we’re uncovering old wounds, identifying new triggers and healing long-buried pain, the process can take many sessions or even months or years.
Further to that, sometimes there are sore spots that we dig into or strategies that don’t feel comfortable that are part of the healing process.
Committing to therapy means committing to learning new and perhaps unfamiliar strategies, reworking old beliefs and creating new, more healthy and adaptive habits and patterns.
It means showing up fully for yourself and loving yourself regardless of how you’re feeling.
It means sitting with discomfort and understanding that it’s the admission price to the place you want to go.
If you’re reading this and feel like therapy is something you want to consider yet still have some apprehension or are unsure of the process, know you’re not alone. Book a Meet & Greet to see if working with myself or another of our warm and skilled team at Eunioa Medical is right for you.
You’re exactly in the right place and you have been brought to this page to read this at just the right moment. You can change how you approach your anxiety management and you can get your anxiety under control.
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This book is my honest no-bullshit approach to anxiety management – it’s all of the experience and knowledge I have learned from working with hundreds of women and managing my own anxiety – compiled into one handbook for women who are ready to finally get a handle on their minds. Get yours today!
THIS EPISODE DIGS INTO:
How to Get the Most Out of Therapy
- setting goals for your therapy
- find someone you can REALLY connect with
- Evaluate when things are not working and talk to your therapist about it
- The importance of doing the work OUTSIDE of therapy
- Bring your HONEST self
- Trust the process and give it TIME
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AUTHOR: DR. CARLY CREWE, MD
Dr. Carly Crewe is a mom to twin toddlers, a modern day nomad and MD Psychotherapist specializing in women's mental health.
Carly believes that when women are well, they have the power to heal and change the world.
Her mission is to revolutionize the women’s mental health care, from fragmented and haphazard to a holistic, comprehensive and integrated approach that meets every woman where she is and addresses the multidimensional reality of mental health.
Dr. Crewe is the founder of Eunoia Medical, a speciality mental health clinic for women in pursuit of a well mind. Carly runs a revolutionary mental health membership for women, The Eunoia Collective.
Carly is the host of the Mind Over Motherhood Podcast and is an Amazon best-selling author. Her newest book You Are Not Your Anxiety: How to Stop Being An Anxious, People-Pleasing Mess will be launching for presale on International Women’s Day March 8th, 2021.