By Kamna Chhibber
The investment that goes into therapy — be it time, effort, your self or money — is enormous. When you pitch in as much as you do in therapy, undoubtedly you want to derive the maximum from it. Yet many people are left feeling that therapy is not giving them back as much as they would like making them feel uncomfortable, dissatisfied and discontent.
Taking charge of some aspects of therapy can help you feel more in control. It can enable you to direct outcomes that you believe are most relevant to you. This does not mean that your therapist becomes a mute participant, but it can make therapy more of a collaborative process.
ALSO READ: UNDERSTANDING THERAPY: A SERIES
Let’s look at some of the things that you can do.
- Set the agenda on day 1 – If you are planning to saunter into your therapist’s room without a clear idea of what you think is going on and what you seek to address, your therapist would need to determine what needs to be looked at most urgently. The process can be collaborative, with your therapist making tentative suggestions, some of which may resonate with you and others you may outrightly reject. But it’s possible that at the end of the session you feel either more lost or not fully satisfied keeping aside the time that would go into determining what needs to be looked at. There is no way to be fully certain of exactly what you are seeking in therapy but determining some broad areas which you can narrow down with your therapist is usually advisable.
- Being too over-prepared can also be counterproductive – Remember your therapist is a trained professional who has an in-depth understanding of mental health, how individuals function, their relationships, defences, coping styles and strategies. If you will try to control too much or be overly directive, it will not give your therapist the space to be creative and go beyond the understanding that you already have. It is important to have a balance between what you think you need and what your therapist believes and needs, ie the freedom to direct some aspects of the therapy. Your openness in this regard would go a long way in helping you derive the most from therapy.
- Be forthright in stating what you think and feel – Many people hesitate to share feedback with their therapist for fear of disappointing, offending or giving an impression of being rude. Your feedback in critical to the therapeutic process because your therapist only knows you from recently and would not be knowledgeable about everything that works or does not work for you. Sharing things that are impacting you in therapy can enable your therapist to be more mindful of your needs, thus enhancing the quality of therapy and making it more suited to you.
- It’s not just about the current crisis – Frequently people reach out to therapists when they find themselves in some untenable situation they just can’t solve or cope with. This can be helpful in the short term but what is most beneficial is to continue with therapy for the long term. This allows you to develop the skills and the emotional balance to be able to tide over situations yourself so you don’t require help in the future.
- Don’t hesitate to share – Share anything that comes to mind. Therapists are trained to be non-judgmental and unbiased, enabling them to be accepting of anything that may be taboo, unusual or extraordinary. If you can push yourself and the boundaries you have created around you to be frank and unhinged in your sessions you would be able to derive the most from them. Any amount of hesitation would make the therapeutic situation akin to most relationships of your life and that does not help.
Consistently striving to reinvent yourself is a process easily aided by your therapist. To make the most of therapy, keep the above in mind and launch into the journey of self-discovery, self-expression and self-growth.
Editor’s Note: Some of you have written in having faced hurdles with your therapists, or to say that a bad experience has put you off therapy for a while. If you have a similar experience, don’t be afraid to try someone new. You’ll find some contacts on this page
Watch this space for more in our Understanding Therapy series!
Disclaimer: Material on The Health Collective cannot and does not claim to substitute for expert advice from a trained mental health professional.