How to Get the Most Out of Your Therapy AppointmentBy Steve Calechman
Deciding to pursue therapy is a strong first step toward improving your well‑being. But just as with taking piano (or most types of) lessons, if the only work you do is during the sessions, it’s going to take a long time to advance.
In truth, much of a person’s success stems from actions taken outside the therapist’s office and often involves asking hard questions of yourself and doing things you don’t necessarily want to do. “Real therapy involves changing our brains” says Scott Bea, Psy.D., clinical psychologist at Cleveland Clinic. “It does happen, but not comfortably.” Setting yourself up to reach your goal involves preparation, commitment, and consistency. Consider taking these steps to help you lay a strong foundation and get the most out of each appointment.
Determine Your Motivation
To benefit most from therapy, you first have to get clear on why you’re going, especially since the therapist will ask about this early into your first appointment. Jeff Bostic, M.D., psychiatrist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, clusters therapy seekers into three groups: those who want to explore undefined issues that make them not fully satisfied; those with a specific problem, such as a phobia, they want to address; and, those for whom therapy was deemed necessary by another person, such as a spouse, relative, or boss.
You don’t need to know every issue that you want to address at the onset of therapy, but it helps to consider these three questions before you start:
- What do you want to be different in your life?
- What’s bothering you?
- Who is my behavior affecting and what do they want from me?
Take time to really consider your answers and write them down. This will help define your purpose for seeking therapy. Bring your written answers to your first session so you’re walking in with momentum.
Start with the Right Mind-Set
Being calm and mindful is the optimal frame of mind with which to begin each session. Give yourself enough travel time so you’re not rushed and flustered when you arrive, and turn off your phone to eliminate any potential distract