Going to therapy is an investment of valuable time and money, and it’s important to most people to make sure they are getting the most out of it. Here are some suggestions:
1. Name the project we’re working on.
One of the first questions I typically ask clients is, what would you like to get out of therapy? The answer to this question may evolve over time, and that’s ok. But it can be helpful to think of therapy as part of a project you’re undertaking. Maybe it’s a project about making a good decision or figuring out what your next steps are. Maybe it’s about a gender transition, cultivating a new identity, standing up to something, or taking your life back after a traumatic event. Whatever the project, putting some words around it can help us stay focused and make sure we’re using your therapy time the way you want to be using it.
2. Consider yourself a collaborative partner, not a patient.
Most people who see a doctor want to be a “good patient,” which means following instructions, taking the medicine you are told to take, etc. In therapy, that approach can actually prove counterproductive. Where patients follow instructions or receive treatments, collaborative partners partner communicates, contribute information, ideas and preferences, Being a collaborative partner involves taking a much more active role. Seeing yourself as a collaborator is likely to result in a better investment of time and money. It also feels more empowering!
3. Pace your appointments in a way that fits your life.
Some clients like to come to therapy every week to make sure they are staying focused and keeping the project going. Some prefer more time in between therapy sessions to process things or implement action plans before our next conversation. Some clients prefer not to make appointments on a regular schedule but come to see me every month, or two, or whenever they hit a point where another therapy session would be helpful. All of these scenarios can be effective, and we can adjust our schedule as things progress if needed.
4. Consider what you might do between therapy sessions.
We can talk during each session about what might help move your project along between sessions. It might be as simple as spending some time thinking about what we’ve talked about and noticing what your thoughts and feelings are. Often, I write notes on a whiteboard as we go, and clients can take a photo to review on their own time. In some cases, it might be something more concrete, a commitment to specific actions you want to take or experiments you want to try. Taking on some tasks between therapy sessions in support of your project often results in the need for fewer therapy sessions, and in-session time that is more effectively focused.