No one wants to be in therapy. It’s time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally exhausting. But, once you’ve decided to take the plunge and ask for help, how do you set yourself up for success? There are therapists out there who are ineffective, or perhaps just not a good fit for your needs. Call several, and get to know who fits your style and seems knowledgeable about your issue. Once you commit to a clinician, here’s a few tips to make the most out of your time.
1. Leave your ego at the door
If you’re in my office, you’re looking for answers you don’t currently have. You’ve made mistakes whether you’re the one who committed whatever offense it is or the one who’s put up with it too long. It’s ok. I still like you. I’m not perfect either (oh boy am I not perfect, and I’m not ashamed to tell some stories on myself!). In fact, the more humble you are and open to owning your part of the problem, the more I like you. And the faster things will change because you don’t have to go through all the puff and blow of doing it your way anyway for a long time before you finally figure it won’t work.
2. Do what the clinician suggests
If you truly think the therapist is incompetent, get a second opinion. If two incompetent therapists tell you to do the same crazy thing, I’d say maybe you’re pointing the finger at the wrong person. There’s a big difference between “that therapist doesn’t know what she’s talking about” and “I do NOT want/do not know how to do what he/she’s asking.” But it’s ok to say that out loud. Because then we can back up and help you figure out how to do what you’re being asked to do without feeling like you’ve been thrown into the middle of the Super Bowl halftime show naked.
3. Don’t come to the clinic and have the same fight as at home
Let the therapist do his job. Let him redirect you and shape your interaction. I have been known to raise my hand for permission to talk, get out my dry-erase board and start keeping score, but on only one occasion have I pointed a finger and downright scolded someone. They were way out of line.
4. Do your homework
Now, you don’t have to do this step. However, you’ll get more bang for your buck and stop coming every week a lot sooner if you practice the assignments you get in-between sessions.
5. Expect your therapist to DO something
Couples counseling is a contact sport. If your therapist is too afraid of making someone mad to actually do anything, get out of there. Now your therapist shouldn’t be abusive – and I’ve heard those stories too – but most of the time I hear about therapists who aren’t bold enough about pointing out the 900 pound gorilla in the room.
6. Don’t disregard your therapist because they haven’t walked in your shoes
Some therapists may know how hard it is to get through the steps from A to Z. But be honest with yourself. If you can’t take direction from someone half your age, get out of there. There’s a lot of good therapists out there in all shapes and sizes. Go find one you click with.
Counseling is what you make out of it. The energy you put in impacts what you get out of it. Best wishes!