Therapy FAQ

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Therapy

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses, 1 in 5 American adults experience some degree of mental illness every year. Fortunately, therapy can help manage your mental health. Therapy allows you to gain insights into your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors to make positive changes. Still, you may wonder how to ensure that therapy works […]

therapist sean abraham By Sean Abraham, LCSW
Woman looks directly into camera, turning focus away from therapy session.

Updated on Mar 27, 2024

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According to the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses, 1 in 5 American adults experience some degree of mental illness every year.

Fortunately, therapy can help manage your mental health. Therapy allows you to gain insights into your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors to make positive changes. Still, you may wonder how to ensure that therapy works for you.

While healing may take time, there are always ways you can ensure you get the most out of each session. This article discusses expert tips for anyone seeking to learn how to get the most out of therapy.

Define Your Goals

Having clear goals is one way of ensuring you get the most out of your counseling sessions. While your therapist may help you set and work towards the objectives, knowing what is taking you to therapy is essential. Consider the following categories of your life and what sort of changes you would like to see: Physical, financial, occupational, social, spiritual, emotional, environmental, and intellectual. 

Understanding and communicating goals sets the stage for your therapist to help you improve areas that are most important to  you. Further, clear and realistic therapy goals allow you to track your achievements and what you are yet to achieve. They also provide an indicator of when it’s time to end therapy.

Once you have attained a specific objective, you — and your therapist — can regroup to identify new goals and modify the old ones.

 Before you begin your therapy sessions, consider why you need treatment  and communicate with your psychotherapist Your therapist will likely ask you this anyway during your initial session(s), but it’s good to give it some thought beforehand. This will guide your therapist on how to proceed with treatment and strengthen the therapeutic relationship.

“Work with your provider to establish specific goals for therapy. What do you hope to achieve? Whether it’s managing stress, improving relationships, or overcoming a particular challenge, having clear objectives can guide your sessions.” says Gennifer Williams, a licensed clinical social worker at Grow Therapy. 

Tips for Setting Clear Therapy Goals

While goals are important in psychotherapy, you may have a hard time establishing them. Here are therapy tips that can guide you through the process of setting therapy objectives:

Brainstorm

One way to develop realistic goals is brainstorming and journaling as many ‘Whys’ as possible. Think about all the reasons you want treatment; they may not necessarily be true. If you are unsure of where to start, you may use prompts such as:

As you respond to these prompts, you may find out that some stand out more than others.

Be SMART

The SMART framework can help you to set objectives that aren’t abstract or vague. So, ensure your goals are:

It’s okay if you don’t achieve the goals as you had planned. Learning what didn’t work and modifying it is essential to the therapy process.

It is helpful that you take time to prepare what you want to talk about and bring it to your first session. Awareness of the specific issues you will address will foster the success of your therapy journey.

You don’t have to go to therapy with SMART goals; your therapist may help navigate the process. You can also ask if your therapist is able to help you translate your goals into a SMART format. However, you should have some idea of what you want out of therapy. 

Have an Action Plan

Once you have identified your goal, collaborate with your therapist to create an action plan. An action plan helps you track progress toward achieving your objectives and the strategies for bringing change.

Be Consistent with Therapy Sessions

Consistency in psychotherapy is an essential determinant of personal growth and improvement. Therapy sessions are usually held once every week for about 45-50 minutes. Whether it’s face-to-face or online therapy, be mindful of the time you have agreed with your therapist, and don’t be late for sessions. Sometimes, punctuality in counseling sessions is the first step to improving your situation.

To maintain consistency with your therapy, be sure to:

Man speaks to woman in therapy.

If you are doing online therapy, be in a quiet and clutter-free environment. Ensure you are not distracted by friends or phones to gain the most.

Respect Boundaries

Understanding that your therapist is not your friend is essential for your therapy journey. While therapists should care for their clients, it is vital to maintain a professional relationship. Therefore, respect the set boundaries throughout the treatment process.

Some boundaries might include: 

Time and Number of Sessions

You— and your therapist— should be clear about the frequency and length of each session. You should also agree on where and when you will be meeting.

Self-Disclosure

Since counseling is your safe space, You should not feel obligated to share what happens in therapy with friends or relatives. It may attract unnecessary opinions and criticism that may affect your journey to wellness.  

Dual Relationships

In psychotherapy, a dual relationship happens when a client and therapist have more than one type of a relationship. For instance, a therapist may concurrently be in a relationship with the client outside the therapy work or promise a future relationship with the patient or someone close to them.

The American Psychological Association’s Code of Conduct prohibits counselors from entering into multiple relationships with clients if the relationship may impair their objectivity.

Therefore, there should be clear boundaries that prevent dual relationships that would compromise the effectiveness of the treatment. 

Physical Touch 

Sometimes, you may feel gratitude towards your therapist and feel like expressing it through a hug. However, hugging may not be an appropriate interaction with your counselor. 

Informed consent is where a therapist educates a client about the nature and course of therapy, along with other vital information that you should know prior to entering into a therapeutic relationship benefits, risks, and alternatives of a proposed course of treatment. Your therapist may share some boundaries around touch as part of the informed consent process. 

If you’re unsure, or feel uncomfortable during the course of therapy, you can express your thoughts and feelings. You have the right to refuse to be touched. 

It is generally against the rules for therapists to accept most gifts with any sort of monetary value. Don’t be offended if your therapist declines receiving a gift from you for the holidays or for the work you do together. 

Understand Your Therapist’s Treatment Approach

Knowing the type of therapy a mental health professional uses is essential in determining its effectiveness. Ask your therapist how their treatment techniques and approach will help overcome your issues and what you are required to do for real progress.

Your therapist may employ different forms of psychotherapy, including:

Your clinical psychologist may use one or combine different psychotherapy techniques such as:

Cognitive behavioral therapy. It involves the identification of unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns and replacing them with more functional and accurate ones. CBT can work well on conditions such as depression, eating problems, anxiety, and trauma-related disorders.

Dialectal behavioral therapy. This treatment teaches new skills to allow patients to take personal responsibility for changing their harmful behaviors. Mental health care professionals often use this approach to treat PTSD, borderline personality disorder, or suicidal thoughts.

Supportive therapy. This treatment approach utilizes encouragement and guidance to help patients establish their resources. Supportive psychotherapy allows patients to handle a mental health condition, which in turn impacts their entire life. This type of therapy is effective for reducing anxiety, building self-esteem, and enhancing coping mechanisms. 

Schedule Time for Homework Assignments

Using homework as an addition to counseling work has proved to be an essential in enhancing therapeutic change quickly, helping clients achieve their goals.  Relevant homework assignments can enhance the effectiveness of session tasks. 

If your therapist gives a homework task, complete it before the next session. Keeping up with assignments will enhance your treatment progress. If you have problems completing homework tasks, let your therapist know so you can solve the problem together. Designing a homework task is often a collaborative task, so, when in the process of developing one, you can voice any obstacles that you anticipate and work together to problem-solve them, and/or make the homework assignment more doable.

Practice is also important. Staying mindful between sessions of falling back into old thoughts and behavior patterns. Take note of your reaction to things and use what you learn in therapy in real-life situations. 

Discuss Treatment in Therapy

It is common to experience stress and fear — especially if it’s your first time in therapy. Discuss these feelings with your therapist rather than pushing them away. If you are concerned about the treatment, you may use your therapy to explain it to your counselor.

Couple laughing in therapy session.

For instance, you may share your discomfort with your therapist’s approach in the last session and ways to improve in the future.

‘It is okay and helpful to discuss therapy with your therapist. Ask questions, especially those that touch on the strategy for the next session, collaborating in therapy, and improving your therapeutic relationship.’ explains Joanne Snyder, a licensed professional counselor at Grow Therapy.

Find a Good Therapist

Not every mental health professional will be suitable for your well-being and personality. For you to have effective therapy sessions, you will need to find a therapist you can trust. Since counseling is a critical endeavor, you will need to be careful who you choose to work with.

As you search for the right therapist, do your research and know that every mental health care professional is different. You don’t have to settle for the first one you come across if there isn’t a fit. 

The National Institute of Mental Health suggests you ask potential therapists questions like:

You should also find a therapist who makes you feel comfortable, safe, and listened to when sharing your issues. For couples therapy, find a therapist you — and your partner — can feel secure with when discussing your problems.

Ensure you are working with a licensed therapist. You can check their licensure online, by mail, or by phone. Conduct an online search or contact an official at your local licensing boards for license verification.

Trust the Process

“Personal growth and change take time. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. Trust the process and be patient with yourself. Attend sessions regularly and be consistent with your appointments. Consistency is essential for building trust and making progress,” says Gennifer Williams. 

Be patient with the treatment, put in the work, and you will eventually see results. Implementing the skills you have learned in therapy will also help to foster your personal growth.

Connect with a Therapist Today

As mental health issues continue to affect millions, psychotherapy is a proven resource that can help. However, to reap every benefit in each therapy session, it is essential to have clear, specific goals and boundaries.

Practicing self-care and understanding your therapist’s treatment approach are vital in fostering your personal growth. Discussing your feelings with your counselor and keeping up with homework assignments will maximize continued progress with your treatment. Ensuring the clinical psychologist meets your personality and goals can help you get the most out of therapy.

At Grow Therapy, we can help you secure a mental health care professional who best fits your personality and therapeutic objectives. Whether you are dealing with anxiety, depression, or marital problems, we have the right therapist for you.

FAQs

  • You will know therapy is working if you use the skills you acquired from the session. You can also review your initial goals and determine whether you’re meeting them. This can help you know if therapy is benefitting you.

  • You may begin to note changes after your first therapy session. However, you may need several more sessions to reap the full benefits. On average, it may take 15 to 20 sessions for patients to recover.

  • If your therapy is not working despite putting in all the effort, then it's time to find another therapist. However, if you have a positive relationship with your therapist and may wish to continue working with them, discuss your concerns honestly with them first. A seasoned provider will be responsive to feedback and may make adjustments to enhance progress.

About the author
therapist sean abraham Sean Abraham, LCSW

Sean Abraham is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in treating people dealing with addiction, anxiety, depression, grief, communication problems, and other mental health concerns.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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