How to get the most out of your therapy - part one of two
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Joshua Miles MBACP Integrative Psychotherapist & Bereavement Counsellor
15th March, 20160 Comments
Psychotherapy and counselling offer you an opportunity to examine your thoughts, feelings and ideas at a deep and profound level, gain new insight into your relationships, find a greater sense of balance and gain wisdom or acceptance of your experiences.
The therapeutic relationship is unique and not like others you may have. Within therapy, you can explore your thoughts without the need for censorship or say the first thing which comes to your mind however bizarre, odd or difficult your thoughts may be.
Given the rich opportunity for personal development therapy offers, it is crucial we are able to maximise our sessions and make the most of therapy. Below are some ideas and ways on how you can use psychotherapy and counselling to its full potential.
Below I have separated trust into three categories, however it is important to mention that therapy doesn’t follow rules, and is a non-linear process. Meaning some may fit into the therapeutic experience quickly, whereas for others it may take some time to feel comfortable.
Trust in the therapist
It is crucial people are able to trust their therapist due to the painful or upsetting difficulties which can lead someone to seek therapy initially, as well as new difficulties which arise throughout therapy. The bond between client and therapist, also known as the therapeutic alliance, is in some ways the most important aspect of therapy, and it is this relationship that if nurtured effectively, creates the most positive and powerful change within an individual.
Of course, reaching a level of trust takes time, and shouldn’t be rushed. It is normal to find it difficult to delve deeply into painful memories straight away, and any experienced and empathic therapist will understand this, and can travel alongside you whilst you work towards exploring your thoughts and feelings.
Trust in the process
The therapeutic process is one that is unique to each therapist and client, it’s one of evolvement, and development over a period of time which varies in length depending on each therapeutic alliance. The process of being heard, understood and valued, and having time to explore yourself entirely without the normal social expectations such as asking how someone else is, or seeking to know information about them or their experiences, can be difficult for those new to therapy.
It is not always clear that there is a process or that it is working if there is one. If you are struggling to know what to say, finding it difficult to make progress or feel you have had a good that week, so aren’t sure why you should be there, then therapy can be a difficult process. The process includes peaks and troughs, and periods of intense progression followed by lulls or feeling as though you are banging against a brick wall. In fact, it is in these moments when some of the most valuable work can be done.
Once you have been going for a few sessions, and you have begun to understand more about how your therapist works, and they understand more about you, the process will become clearer. It is not always about giant discoveries, or huge leaps and bounds each session, and often the process happens without you noticing until you are on your way home, and realise the magnitude of a particular session.
Trust in yourself
Learning to trust in your own mind, thoughts, feelings and ideas is not an easy task, especially if you are someone who finds it difficult to talk, or is used to listening to others a great deal. It is part of the role of the therapist to empower you to have more of a voice and understand yourself and your mind more effectively. This process takes time, however if you are able to do so, you will experience a more connected and valuable therapeutic experience.
Making the most out of therapy is dependent on different factors, both within the consulting room and externally too, but if you realise it’s ok for you to be there and to know that you deserve to have your voice heard, valued and understood, then there is every chance you can make good use out of your time in therapy.
We live increasingly busy lives, meaning it can be incredibly hard to switch off from the experiences, difficulties or frustrating moments that happen in a week. It can seem all too easy to turn up for your therapy session, and speak about things which are less important. This is why it is crucial to prioritise therapy by attending each week on time, not missing sessions without a very good reason and preparing for each session in advance.
If you notice that you are finding attending regularly difficult, or notice that you are often late to your sessions then ask yourself why and discuss this with your therapist. As stated previously, the relationship between you and your therapist is key to therapeutic change, so your reasons for not attending are an important part of the process.
Of course life can get in the way of therapy and there some things which can stop you attending, and there will always be unforeseen circumstances, but if you seek to make lasting changes, then making therapy an important part of your week and attending each week will really help you to not only make the most out of the time you are in a session but also how you use your time between each meeting.
Time between sessions
The space in between therapy can be as important as therapy itself. It’s during this time you can think about your session, consider your feelings and also act upon any developments you made. It is space to be thoughtful, reflective and contemplative and begin to work on changes. Some people find it helpful to note down key themes or ideas from sessions as this can help them make more meaningful progress.
This is part one of a two part article – please see part two for more.
About the author
Joshua's an experienced integrative psychotherapist who's worked with people with a wide range of mental health difficulties. He provides people with a space to be reflective about their own lives & assists them in exploring their feelings & experiences at depth as well as working on strategies to cope & manage. He's based in Shoreditch East London
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