How to get the most out of your therapy - part two of two
In part one I wrote about the importance of different types of trust in the therapeutic relationship, prioritising therapy and using time in between sessions. In this part, I will write about the importance of communicating, discussing the relationship, setting goals and being patient, open and honest.
The importance of communicating
Therapy is very much something in which you get out what you put in. A big part of the therapeutic process is communication, both from you and your therapist. It is important to communicate your feelings or thoughts no matter how unimportant or strange you may consider them to be. This level of self-honesty is difficult given the nature of the real world where we do not often communicate our true thoughts and feelings to one another.
If you desire change in your life or further understanding of your difficulties, then you must be willing to communicate your needs and wishes in therapy, and explore what you may want to get out of the process. Communicating your feelings may be difficult initially, but in time you will develop the capacity to express what it is you need and will be able to discover deeper meanings or make discoveries and gain understanding. Speaking about the process with your therapist regularly and checking in ensures that you can get what you need from your sessions.
Discuss the relationship
In psychodynamic language, much of the relationship between the therapist and client is acted out in what is known as transference, this refers to a client’s mostly unconscious redirection of feelings for a significant person onto their therapist, often these relationships are those retained from childhood. Transference takes many forms in therapy and can be acted out through hatred, mistrust, extreme dependence or rage. Transference happens often in life as well, for example, a boss at work reminds you of your strict grandfather, so you cower accordingly.
People often seek therapy due to having difficulties within relationships, both present and historic, and given the importance of the dynamics within therapy, it makes sense that the therapeutic relationship holds real significance, value and meaning. Like any other relationship, it will have bumps, and will not always be smooth. In fact, it is not at all unusual for a client to be annoyed, frustrated or angry at their therapist, however there can be a tendency to not wish to displease a therapist, or express a sense of unhappiness about a session. However, a bit of head butting or discourse in the room can actually strengthen the therapeutic alliance and allow you to gain more from the experience. If you can discuss the relationship and be open to the idea that the relationship with your therapist is a core aspect of therapy, then you can be more honest and inevitably gain more from the experience.
Often, the reasons which bring a person to therapy can change, dissipate or lose importance as sessions go on. During therapy you may find you have other difficulties you were initially unaware of or unconsciously you may be drawn to therapy for a surface level difficulty because it is more manageable.
Whatever the reason that brought you into therapy, it is important to identify goals. Some may be short term, some long term or some may develop as therapy does. It may be hard to identify goals especially if you are new to counselling and psychotherapy, so before an initial session, consider visualising changes you seek to implement. Maybe you could write things down, and take this to your first session. However, it is important to note, that there are no set rules in therapy, and due to the fluid nature of therapy, your goals are likely to change. Keeping track and reflecting of your own progression as the weeks go on will help you to gain more value from therapy.
Be patient, open and honest
It is important within therapy to have a sense of patience, and give yourself time for reflective thought and processing. Be kind to yourself and remember even though there may not have yet been life changing revelations, and you may not have fixed everything immediately, you are making progress by attending each week. The chances are that the difficulties you are experiencing took years to form and develop, so it makes sense you won’t solve your difficulties straight away. Being patient helps ease pressure, and lets your difficulties or worries flow more easily within a session, lessening the chances of blocks occurring.
Being open to your feelings, thoughts and ideas, and allowing your vulnerability to show through may seem strange, difficult or painful initially, but this is how progress is made, how you develop your mental awareness and gain deeper understanding of your difficulties. It is about finding a comfortable space where you are neither not challenged at all, nor are you too scared to speak about your difficulties.
If you are finding it difficult to speak, it can be useful to share this with your therapist. Even the act of communicating about how you are finding it hard to communicate can be useful. Part of the therapist's role is to assist you in engaging in difficult feelings, help you bring them to the light, and let you gain new understanding. Remember, your therapist has had extensive training and is well versed at understanding a wide range of difficulties, and ultimately is there to help you understand your experiences, so it is in your best interest to be as open as you can.
Therapy is most certainly not a quick fix solution to difficulties in life, nor is it simple or easy. Committing yourself fully to the process of therapy shouldn’t be taken lightly, and can involve a great deal of upheaval and change. As well as difficult times within therapy, the process also includes elation and happiness brought about through a greater understanding of your own mind, and the positive results are well worth any periods of difficulty you may experience.
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About Joshua Miles
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