Make therapy a regular part of your self care routine so you know you have that regular support scheduled. Just having the appointment on the calendar can provide some relief and be the "light at the end of the tunnel" for the week.
Tell Your Therapist What You Need
It's okay to specify what you need any given session: "I just need to be heard", "I need some feedback on _____", "I need some more skills to manage ______", "I need help figuring out why I ______". You are paying and trusting a therapist with your mental health, and it is okay (encouraged!) to be direct about what you need.
Be Aware of People Pleasing
Even if you love your therapist, not everything they say will resonate with you. It's okay to tell them if something they say isn't working for you. Letting them know what DOES work for you will help guide therapy in the right direction.
Address The Elephant in the Room
Therapy feels like it isn't working? Tell your therapist. Too scared to talk about something specific? Tell your therapist you are nervous to open up. A good therapist will take these statements openly and explore what you need in order to find the best path forward.
Advocate For Your Needs
If you have had the discussion with your therapist about therapy not working for you and things don't change, it is okay to switch. If it is clear that your therapist can't meet your needs (ie: you identify as LGBTQ+ and your therapist has little awareness about the Queer community), let them know you need something different. Your current therapist may be able to help link you to a better fit!
Work on What You Discuss in Session Throughout the Week
Therapy can be seen as a planning session in a sense. If you always talk about plans to do things but don't follow through with doing them in your life, therapy is limited in its benefits. For example, if you discuss certain perspective or coping skills in session, apply them throughout your week. If they don't work for you, tell your therapist in your next session and work on finding other options. If you have having trouble self motivating to do them or have other barriers, tell your therapist.
(If you need any worksheets or info sheets to help you do the work at home, let your therapist know!)
Balance Coming Prepared And Being Present
It is great to come to session prepared with something you want to explore or work on. On the other hand, it is possible that once you get to your session, your current state may not be compatible with the topic you planned. Balance working on your mental health goals and tapping into what you need at the time of your session.
Believe That Growth and Healing is Possible
It will be near impossible to feel better if you are stuck with the mentality that it will never get better. Mental health concerns like depression and complex trauma can lead to skepticism of things getting better. If you have this skeptical belief, tell your therapist about it. You can gain SO much perspective throughout your time in therapy, but important foundational perspective is that it is possible to grow and heal. Otherwise, it will be hard for any other perspective and change to sink in. Leading into my next point:
Get Used to Baby Steps
Most effective therapy models lead to change over time. There are a couple therapy types that can show more immediate results (like EMDR, plant medicine), but they are usually pretty intense emotional experiences to have change happen immediately. To put things in perspective, you have a WHOLE lifetime of mental / emotional programming and experiences to sift through, it will take time. Know for most therapy, it is a marathon, not a sprint. One step at a time.
Invite Loved Ones to Join Your Sessions
When you sign up for individual therapy, your therapist will only know about your life from your perspective. You can invite family members, romantic partners, roommates, teachers, mentors, etc to participate in your therapy (even if it is just a brief phone call between them and your therapist) to help your therapist get to know you through another lens. If you are having communication or relationship concerns with a loved one, inviting them into session will be even more effective than your therapist just supporting you. (Legal note: don't spring surprise guests on your therapist. Depending on the relationship, your therapist probably needs written permission to have them in session first due to confidentiality laws!)
Supplement Your Therapy with Other Healing
Read books, listen to music, attend other healing activities, watch online healing content, and more to engage with the process of healing outside of session. We have a whole list of healing resources on our website to keep the healing conversation happening all week:
All the best on your healing journey,