It takes a lot of courage and hard work to decide to start therapy and participate in it. Many clients begin therapy not knowing what to expect and find that it can be frustrating when they do not see the results they were hoping for. On the other hand, making progress in therapy can be rewarding and life-changing.
To help prospective and current clients have a clearer idea of what to expect, I created a list of tips for people to help them make progress in therapy sessions.
1. Find a Therapist Who Is the Right Fit for You
Having a good rapport with your therapist is essential for making progress in therapy. Research indicates that the therapeutic alliance is one of the most important factors in therapy being successful. Therefore, it is important to make sure that you are seeing a therapist who is a good fit for you.
Some things to keep in mind include asking yourself if you feel comfortable with your therapist and you feel like they understand you. Similarly, consider if the therapist is culturally competent, meaning are they able to understand your experiences within the context of your cultural background, whether that is your race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious beliefs.
On the other hand, making changes in your life can be uncomfortable. Take the time to reflect on if the reason you are not comfortable with your therapist is because of what is coming up for you in therapy or because the therapist is not a good fit for you.
2. Don’t Try to Impress Your Therapist
Some clients want to portray themselves in a positive light toward their therapist. However, this can lead to withholding information or not being fully open, which in turn can delay their progress in therapy. If you feel a desire to impress your therapist or make them like you, this is likely something that is happening in other relationships outside of therapy and is important to discuss with your therapist.
Attending therapy consistently is also important to make progress in the therapeutic process. At the beginning of therapy, this involves attending sessions weekly, or at the minimum biweekly. This allows you to continue to strengthen your relationship with your therapist and build on the work you do session to session more easily.
Some clients get discouraged when they do not see results immediately and start to question if therapy is right for them or if they need to look for a different therapist. Similarly, some clients have anxiety about attending therapy, especially when starting with a new therapist.
It is helpful to process these thoughts and feelings with your therapist in session as opposed to skipping sessions or dropping out of therapy. Your therapist will not be offended if you bring up concerns you are having about therapy and likely will encourage discussing this. This also will allow you to build an even stronger therapeutic relationship with your therapist and practice having uncomfortable conversations in a safe setting.
4. Reflect Between Sessions and Do Your Homework
Since the therapist is only with their clients for typically one hour a week, a lot of the progress and change comes from how the client is applying the things they discuss and learn about in therapy in their day-to-day lives outside of therapy.
Some therapists ask their clients to do homework in between sessions to build on what they discussed in the session. For example, some therapists may ask their clients to journal daily or practice guided meditation outside of therapy. Doing these things can help clients develop new and healthy habits as well as further their progress in therapy.
5. Remember That Therapists Don’t Have All the Answers
Some people come into therapy with the expectation that therapy is about the therapist giving advice or telling them what to do to fix their problem for the long term. However, making progress in therapy, whether it is in-person or online therapy, requires hard work, introspection, and active participation on the part of the client. While therapists are educated and have the training, they do not have all the answers, or more specifically they do not necessarily have the right answer for you.
What I tell my clients is that I view therapy as a collaborative process and that I am here to explore with them by discussing things, asking questions, and at times challenging them so that they can find the right answers for themselves.
Written By: Sam Donham, LCPC, MEd, NCC
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic at (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.