Making the Most of Your Counseling Sessions

Ever wonder why it feels like you aren't progressing in your personal work?

It might be that you are showing up to your sessions unprepared.

Whether you are new to counseling or a “regular”, I want to take this opportunity to encourage you to make the most of your therapy sessions, regardless of who your therapist is. I’ve recently noticed a marked difference in the progress of my clients who are coming prepared to their sessions. 

In an article from Psychology Today, Linda Esposito, LCSW of Pasadena CA shares some great tips I endorse and recommend whole-heartedly.

Here's how to make the most out of your counseling sessions:

1. Make a list of issues you want to discuss. This is useful to organize your thoughts, and prioritize the areas of concern that are causing the most stress.

2. Be mindful of your most pervasive negative thoughts and feelings experienced during the week, including when, where, and with whom they occur. These automatic and unhealthy “scripts” can be highly unconscious, and so prevalent you may be unaware of their existence.

3. Bring a notepad to jot down ideas, exercises, or resources suggested by your therapist. There’s a lot going on in session and with so many different ideas floating around your head, you may not remember some of the important points discussed.

4. Do your homework! A 50-minute session can go by fast. Homework is a way of augmenting the hard work done in session, and most importantly, it keeps you connected to your mind and body.

5. Take care of yourself. Small lifestyle changes can significantly increase emotional and physical well-being. Your mood and energy levels should improve through exercise, deep-breathing, and relaxation and visualization exercises. Other healthful tips include reducing your intake of caffeinated beverages,alcohol, drugs, and making sleep a priority.

6. Communicate with your doctor or psychiatrist if you’re taking psychotropic medications (or any other medicines). Be open and honest about results, side effects, and compliance. Sometimes medicine dosages, types, and frequencies need to be adjusted before the desired outcome is achieved.

7. Let your feelings be known. If you disagree with your therapist, or experience a particularly strong emotional reaction to something s/he said during the previous session, speak on it. While therapists are trained to observe different forms of communication, we are not mind readers. It’s empowering for you to initiate an uncomfortable conversation, and address negative feelings about therapy.

8. Be prepared to work hard and feel uncomfortable. Therapy is often the first place where disturbing, heart-wrenching, and traumatic memories and events are acknowledged. Therapy is not the time to come buttoned up, avoiding feelings or emoting for fear of looking foolish. Be honest about the material you feel comfortable working on, yet be open enough to trust the professional sitting across from you. A good clinician is attuned to their clients experiences, and knows when to alter the pace and direction of the intervention.

9. Accept the truth. We all use denial as a defense mechanism from time to time, but one can only deny reality for so long. You’ve already made a vital and possibly life-altering decision to undergo therapy, so give yourself the opportunity to see your relationships and circumstances in a more honest light.

10. Laugh. A sense of humor helps every situation

11. ACTION is where it’s at. Whether you entered therapy to cope with a romantic break-up, chronic interpersonal problems, or social anxiety, positive change will occur when you commit to changing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

May your healing work continue to be a source of growth and encouragement to you.

Love and light to all!

Kirsten