Going to therapy is a very difficult decision and process and is only compounded by trying to find the right therapist for you. A colleague of mine often uses the metaphor of trying on shoes to understand finding the right therapist. There are a lot of different shoes and not all are going to be right for you! That doesn’t make them bad or wrong; it just means they’re not the ones for you! There is a certain level of comfort and intuition that can help a patient determine whether or not this fit is right. But, as the article in this month’s Psychology Today suggests, there is more to making therapy work than that and it takes incredible determination and commitment on the part of the patient. Here are some suggestions to making sure therapy is effective and actually makes a difference in the areas of your life in which you want to see change.
- Find the right therapist. Know what kind of therapy they provide and what specific model of therapy they use. It’s ok to “interview” therapists before choosing one. And ask questions about the therapist in particular and what to expect from the process.
- Be open and honest. While it may seem to go without saying, it is vital that the patient shares those things that are more uncomfortable and unpleasant. If the patient is leaving therapy feeling good or even ok, that may be a sign that things are not going deep enough to make any meaningful or lasting change.
- Be consistent. It is imperative for therapy to be effective that it remains consistent. I tend to take my patient’s lead on a schedule for therapy but what I see most effective is once weekly. Too much lost time between visits can hurt the therapeutic relationship as well as skill-building.
- Keep a notebook. I’ve had a few patients who have done this in therapy. It shows how invested they are in the therapeutic process. But these are also the patients that get the most out of therapy. They tend to see greater change in a quicker time frame. Know what you want to talk to your therapist about going into each session.
- Practice what you learn. In other words, take any homework your therapist gives you seriously. Practice makes what you learn stick and helps the patient get used to new skills and these become a more permanent reaction to anxiety, depression, or other problematic situations.
- Trust your therapist and the process. It’s important to remember that your therapist has skills and knowledge from a long history of education and training and that this is why you are going to see them in the first place. While the process may be uncomfortable and longer than you want, it is necessary. You are the expert on you but the therapist is the expert in their field. I like to let my patients know that, while I can’t promise the skills I introduce will work (in fact, if a therapist ever does promise this, find a new one quickly), what I can promise is that if they keep doing the same thing as they’ve been doing, nothing will change. You’ve probably come to therapy because what you’ve been doing hasn’t been working thus far. Let the process run its course.
- Give feedback. I tell my patients that I want to know if what we are talking about or the skills I introduce are working. It’s important to have a therapist that is checking in with you and taking inventory of progress regularly.
Therapy is as much about the therapeutic relationship as it is anything else. This has proven to be the most important component of effective therapy. That is why these tips are so important. I take so seriously the prompting of God on my life to help those in the worst times of their lives find healing in the grace and power of Jesus Christ. That is why I pray these tips can be instrumental in helping you find the right help for you!!!
By Christina Allegri