MAKE IT PART OF YOUR LIFE: Therapy works best when you take what you’ve learned and apply it to the rest of your week. Between sessions, notice areas in your life you’d like to explore.
JOURNAL: Use a journal to reflect on your sessions and jot down things you notice about yourself during the week. It doesn’t have to be the “Dear Diary” of your youth, just a place to record a few thoughts or feelings. Jot down ideas or thoughts that come to you throughout the week. Or your responses to situations. It may help to bring it to session with you.
TAKE NOTES: Use the index cards in the office to write down things/ideas you want to remember, “homework,” any other thought that was relevant during session. This will help to make therapy a part of your life.
BUSINESS FIRST: At your first session, discuss payments, insurance, scheduling at the start of the session. Nothing’s more awkward than ending a session with a big revelation or emotional breakthrough followed by three minutes of check writing and calendar navigation. For each subsequent session, come to the session prepared to pay (if appropriate), know if you need a different time/day the following week, know if you can’t make the following week, have information on a new insurance ready to give me.
ASK ANYTHING: Clients sometimes censor their questions because they believe asking is against the rules. You’re allowed to ask whatever you want, let me explain my boundaries. Want to know a personal detail, professional opinion or an explanation for something said or did? Go ahead and ask. You might not get a straight answer, but you should get a reason why not, and you might learn something about yourself in the process.
LEARN TO FISH: A lot of people want advice from their therapist. Therapy is more about helping you come to your own conclusions than having the therapist make decisions for you. This benefits you in the long run but may seem disappointing at the time.
ASK WHY: Let your inner 3-year old out and ask why you behave/think/feel as you do. Why do I hate my boss so much? Why am I so anxious before sessions? Why does the therapist’s shirt bother me?
CHALLENGE JARGON: Some therapists have been doing this work so long they assume everyone knows what they’re talking about. If the therapist says some gibberish you don’t understand (“this boundary violation exacerbates your abandonment issues and fixated Oedipal complex”), ask him what he means. This is something I focus on not doing, but if you don’t understand something, ask.
SAY THE ODD THOUGHT: Therapy is one place where strange thoughts are acceptable. In fact, the odder the better. Have a sudden impulse? Say it. Flash to a certain memory? Talk about it. The phrase some things are better left unsaid doesn’t apply here so speak freely and you might learn something interesting. This is very important.
GO DEEPER: If you find yourself running through mundane details of your week or hitting awkward silences, maybe there’s a deeper issue you’re avoiding. Ask what it is you’re not talking about and talk about it. Discuss what you’re discovering about yourself. Take the time to explore who you are, what you feel and why you do what you do. Push beyond it is what it is or whatever and tackle some deeper questions. Try: “I wonder why I ___” or: “Deep down, I really feel ___”
COME PREPARED TO WORK: Therapy is not about the therapist “fixing you.” It is about the therapist helping you understand you, what needs to be fixed, and gives you tools to do so. You will get lots of tools. It will be up to you to use them.
ENGAGE AND ENJOY: Therapy is like enrolling in a course where you are the subject matter. If you’re curious, teachable and motivated to do some work, it can be one of the most challenging and rewarding courses you ever take.