Spending time with your therapist can help you gain insights into your condition and personality, and develop solutions on how to improve your life. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s hard to fit everything in during your visits. You may end a session thinking, “We didn’t get to any of the topics I wanted to discuss!”
Here are some simple ways to make the most out of your regular therapy sessions. There are some ways to ensure that the issues you face get the time that they need.
During your first visit, your therapist will typically gather information about you, your condition, and your symptoms’ impact on your life. The more information you have readily available for your therapist, the faster they can begin to help you.
Here is some information you should be prepared to provide:
- details on your current symptoms
- why you’re seeking therapy
- your medical history
- any medications you are taking
You should prepare beforehand to maximize each session. Leave enough time to get to your appointment so you’re not rushed when you need to be relaxed. You should also abstain from any alcohol or recreational drugs. Therapy is a time to work on your problems, not to self-medicate your way through them.
Keeping a journal may help jog your memory during your therapy sessions. Record your moods and activities between sessions. Write down any problems you may have had or any personal insights you may have had. Then, review your journal entries before your session or bring it with you into the session.
The reason you go to therapy is to help you solve problems. But you will have little success unless you come ready to share your thoughts and emotions. This may include talking about some painful or embarrassing memories. You may have to reveal parts of your personality that you aren’t proud of, but your therapist is not there to judge you. Discussing the issues that bother you most can help you either change or learn to accept yourself.
Openness isn’t the same as sharing. Openness means a willingness to answer your therapist’s questions. It also means being open to revelations about yourself. This can help you to understand the way you act, the way you feel, and how you interact with others. Being open allows you to share and take in what comes to you during therapy.
Some types of therapy require you to do to “homework” assignments. These generally consist of practicing a skill or technique between therapy sessions. If your therapist assigns you “homework,” make sure to do it. Take notes on the experience and be prepared to discuss it at your next session. If you feel that you would not be able to complete a particular homework assignment, discuss this with your therapist.
Just as you should take notes outside of therapy, jot down any observations or conclusions that you come to during therapy. This will enable you to review what you worked on that day. The notes can serve as a reminder of the progress you are making.
Your therapist will likely ask you many questions regarding events from your past and present life. These questions are necessary to get an accurate picture of your circumstances. In order to build trust, communication should work both ways. In other words, ask questions if any come to you. It is important that your therapist work with you to find answers to your questions.
Keep your questions focused on your symptoms, how they affect your daily functioning, and what can be done to alleviate them.
Personal questions for your therapist are not appropriate. It is best for your therapist to maintain a professional boundary.
Depending on what you discussed with your therapist that day, you may have some intense emotions running through you after a session. Try to plan a little down time after each session to give yourself time to calmly collect your thoughts and to absorb what just happened. Spending some time taking notes in your journal about your reactions, or even sitting down to be alone with your thoughts, can be very therapeutic.
Before your next session, go over your notes from your past session. Revisit what you talked about and start to think about what you’d like to address in your next session. The insights gained from the sessions shouldn’t be limited to the therapist’s office. Make sure you think about your progress during the days before your next session.