How to Succeed in Therapy

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Therapy is a common resource used by a diverse group of people. It’s not only applicable during a huge period of growth or after a traumatic event. It can be used preventatively or to help minimize the number of times certain thoughts/feelings affect your daily life.

You’ve done both a wonderful and completely normal thing by beginning a journey into therapy. This short article will help you make the most of it. 

Tips for Success

1. Choose the right therapist for you 

While browsing for a therapist, you should critically consider three things:

  • What are your therapy goals?
  • What type of treatment(s) are you open to?
  • And what types of therapy are covered by your insurance?

Many health insurance companies have portals on their websites that not only allow you to lookup local providers that fit into your policy, but you can also search therapists using multiple filters – by areas of specialty, gender, beliefs, patient reviews/ratings, awards, and certifications. This is a great place to start if you feel overwhelmed.

2. Make goals before starting 

Therapists are not mind readers. You cannot just show up and expect them to fix you without direction. The more prep work you put in, the sooner you will begin hitting milestones. 

Think, “What is the purpose of my therapy?” What behaviors, thoughts, or feelings do you want to work on? 

3. Check with your insurance company first!  

Your therapy may be fully covered, or only partially. If you’re paying the costs of your sessions fully out-of-pocket, this will likely influence how often you are comfortable booking an appointment. 

4. Take notes before, during, and after therapy

Before 

During 

  • Do NOT be afraid to take notes while the therapist is talking. It is not rude. They will appreciate that what they said has struck you so much that you decide to capture it in writing. Some therapists may even require it or find it rude that you do not take notes. 
  • Write down anything that touched you, any “aha” moments, memorable quotes, things that didn’t make sense in the moment, things you have questions about, anything you feel strongly about. 
  • Always ask for homework. You should walk away from each session with at least one homework assignment – usually a skill to practice or a thought to apply to regular situations. It may not always be an actual worksheet or written homework. 

After 

  • Immediately after leaving the session, it’s smart to just sit with your thoughts and feelings for five to ten minutes. Write down any strong feelings or thoughts you have during that time. 
  • Understand that sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. 
  • You won’t leave every session with an ‘aha’ moment. Or feeling healed. Sometimes, they will be uncomfortable or even distressing. Keep track of these feelings, and you might begin to notice a positively-changing pattern over time. 

5. Commit!

Changes do not happen after the first two to three sessions. It may even be 10 sessions before you start noticing positive changes. The longer you stick with it, the more these lessons become habits. 

6. Don’t keep secrets

Therapy should be a perfectly safe, judgment-free space. If you don’t feel that it is, you might want to consider if this is the right therapist for you.  

7. Recognize the value of your time

Don’t allow yourself to wander through a session aimlessly. Be curious. Take the lead if needed. Refer back to your goals and identify how your current conversation ties back in with one of them. 

What to Expect:

  • Expect some temporary discomfort. You may be unpacking a lot of difficult topics, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the work. 
  • As I said earlier, your therapist is not a mind-reader. Television has shown us many unrealistic tropes of therapists. You will need to decide and reveal what information is important to your therapist, and you need to be honest in how you answer their questions. 
  • The type of therapy you choose will determine your experience. Research your options and ask your therapist what areas they specialize in. Your therapy may look nothing like what you’ve seen before. Maybe you expected you’d talk about nothing but childhood experiences or that your therapist would give you fun surveys to find out which Hogwarts House you are; the world of therapy is big. But that means you have many chances to find the perfect fit or therapy tools for you. 

What influences you most to succeed in therapy?

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Hi, I’m Dani! I’m an engineer turned clinical research scientist. My husband and I met through our mutual love of all things nerdy. We married in 2017 and recently started growing our family. Our first child was born three days into the start of the new decade. Just as we were ready to start bringing her out into the world, the pandemic hit. Finding communities online has been the perfect way for me to feel less alone in new motherhood and the wonderful, emotional, exhausting, and sometimes terrifying experiences that come with it. Columbia Mom =was one of these communities. In April 2021, I joined as a contributor. I will use my background in engineering and science to provide unique activities that I hope you and your children will love. I believe in honestly sharing the “good, bad, funny, frustrating, beautiful, and messy” parts of our new parenthood journey, so in this little corner of the internet, you might relate to something and feel connected and empowered.

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