Whether you’ve recently begun therapy, or have been in therapy for years, you may wonder how to get the most out of it, or even whether you’re “doing it right.” No matter what brought you into therapy, or what your present goals are, consider the following list of “do’s and dont’s” as some guideposts to help along the way. (Please bear in mind that this list is far from exhaustive, and there’s a chance it may not apply directly or exactly to your situation, and that’s ok!)
DON’T think you need to figure out exactly what your problems are, why you’re having them, or how you can “fix” them. Your therapist will help you to gain clarity on what’s happening in your life and why.
DON’T expect your therapist to “fix” you. A therapist is more like a guide, coach, mento, or healer that partners WITH you, to do your own work of healing.
DO take responsibility for your process. Psychotherapy is kind of like physical therapy. Like PT, therapy can feel like a helpful “adjustment” once a week. The healing/rebuilding/recovery happens to a greater degree however, when you do the “exercises,” or therapy work, outside of sessions. You and your therapist can set goals together on what that will look like.
DO practice being open and honest with yourself, and with your therapist. It’s normal to feel ambivalent or uncomfortable when talking about yourself or disclosing things you haven’t shared before, but your therapist is a compassionate person who will help you gain clarity on your feelings and your life situation, and help you develop the skills to better care for yourself and navigate your life.
DO remember that therapy is a two-way street! If you have questions about your therapist, or about therapy, it can help to ask them directly. For example, you might ask your therapist what type of therapy they practice, why they say or do certain things in session, what their thoughts are on a particular aspect of your life, or how long it might take you to reach your goals in therapy.
Lastly, DO give feedback. It’s ok to let your therapist know what you’re finding helpful or unhelpful in sessions. Your therapist will generally have a good idea about how things are landing, but therapists are also people, and not mind readers. Sharing if you need more or less of something or found something particularly useful, can help your therapist get to know you better and tailor their work with you in ever more helpful ways.
Amanda Jacobson, LMHC, is a licensed therapist in clinical practice since 2013. She has experience working in both inpatient and outpatient settings, with group and individual therapy and she has a passion for working with people recovering from addictions, as well as codependency, depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship challenges and major life transitions. She earned her master’s degree from Boston University.
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