Therapy can be very helpful to people, yet some people still have poor experiences with it. Whether it has to do with the stigma around it, negative experiences in your past, or just not really knowing how to make the most of it, you may be missing out on a great opportunity to help yourself live a more effective and fulfilling life. It’s all about making therapy work for you.
Do Your Research
There are so many different types of therapy used today. The most commonly known is basic talk therapy, where you sit down with a licensed therapist and talk about things you want to improve, things that are bothering you, and possibly things from your past. This can be very effective, to have a safe and confidential place to talk with someone who isn’t biased. Keep in mind that confidentiality excludes disclosures of self-harm, self-harm relapses, or threats to others because therapists have promised to keep you safe. However, they are great people to confide your secrets and innermost thoughts to without it creating drama in your family, relationships, or friends.
Beyond basic talk therapy, there are specific modalities or types of therapy that are defined and often have specific tools to help you. These include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). All of these are evidence-based therapies, which means there is scientific evidence showing how effective they are to treat things like trauma, substance use, specific mental health issues, and more. When you look for a therapist, find out which types of treatment they offer, and read up on them so that you can help choose the type of therapy that you are not only comfortable with, but that will also be most effective for you and your specific circumstances.
Find Someone You Like
Finding a therapist that you like can be difficult, and the availability of good therapists is often limited. But if you cannot imagine yourself sitting across from this person and confiding in them, or they give you a reason to believe that you can’t trust them, then what is the point? This doesn’t have to be your BFF, but should be someone that helps you to feel calm and safe, and seems to have some kind of wisdom to offer you. If their office is way too cold, too hot, or they don’t have a comfortable place for you to sit, then you are a lot less likely to be comfortable enough to talk to them. You may not be in much of a position to be very picky, but the basic requirement is being able to develop trust with them. Ideally, you will also actually like them.
Not only is it important to show up physically for your appointments, but you also need to show up emotionally, prepared to roll up your mental sleeves and dig into your issues. Not showing up physically has a financial consequence to you or your family, including fees for canceling less than 24-48 hours out. But not showing up emotionally also has similar financial consequences, because it is a waste of everyone’s time and money if you show up and aren’t prepared to work.
Showing up means being humble, vulnerable, and wanting to change your life. You need to be willing to admit that you need help, be open to any suggestions, and then want change enough to follow through with challenges and suggestions. You don’t always have to agree, and certainly, if there is something you are truly not comfortable talking about or doing, that is always within your power to choose. When you show up for your therapy, you are showing up for you, and you are showing yourself that you are committed to improving your life.
Do Your Homework
Therapists will often give “homework” between sessions. Usually, it is something that you have been talking about or working on, and it is a way of continuing the therapy outside of the office. Implementing what you are working on in your real life is how change happens. You can talk for an hour at a time about anything, but when you shut that door, if that is the end of the conversation until next time, then you are only showing up for yourself for one hour per week. When you do your homework and take what you’ve talked about outside of the office, then you are showing yourself that you actually want to affect change in your life, and you are willing to do the work to make it happen.
Therapy is not a prison sentence, it is not some kind of punishment. Even if you have had poor experiences in the past, therapy can be an opportunity for you to step up your desire to make changes in your life. It is okay to ask for help with that. There are people who can give you some fresh perspective, some new tools, and help you unravel the things that are impacting your life. If you are invested in your well-being, you can find someone to be your guide on your journey to mental health. When you show up and do your homework, you demonstrate your commitment to yourself and actually make therapy work for you.