Therapists are people. And some people can be annoying! Although it isn’t necessary that you like your therapist and want to meet them for coffee, it certainly helps if you find them affable and approachable.
In order to get the full benefits of therapy you have to put your mental health in the right person’s hands. And there is no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy so it is important to take into consideration not only the personality of the therapist but also their clinical style.
Some therapists are extremely empathetic, warm, and process at a gentle pace while others are more direct, challenging, and transparent. Neither approach is wrong, per se, as long as you feel that the responses and approach are comfortable to you.
Don’t wait for a crisis to get started.
Would you wait until you couldn’t breathe to start exercising? Then why wait for a disaster before beginning therapy. Studies show that people wait 7 years too long before beginning treatment. Don’t be that person!
The goal isn’t to get the therapist to like you.
It is human nature to want people to like us. And for all of you people-pleasers out there, this warning is for you!
Therapists are here to assist you in reaching your goals, so it is important to resist the urge of getting your therapist to look at you like a friend. That will only impede your honesty and progress.
Hear me now! In order to get the most return on investment with therapy it is imperative to let them see the real you.
Don’t hold back on the details and honesty.
How could it possibly serve you to hold back, provide half-truths, or worse yet lie because you think it makes you look better in the eyes of your therapist? I know you are thinking, If I tell them all of the details, they will think I am a bad person, crazy, or an idiot.
We know it can be incredibly difficult and embarrassing to share private details about yourself. The thing that you have to understand is that as therapists, we have really heard it all. Our shock-button is pretty hard to find!
You are spending your precious time, money, and emotional energy to be in the room with the goal of making positive shifts in your life. You owe it to yourself to be as transparent and detailed as possible so you get the most out of your efforts.
Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.
Believe it or not, this can be a common phenomenon at the start of therapy. People start therapy because a problem has proven more complex than they are able to manage with their current coping skills. A therapist is trained to help you explore these challenges on a deeper level which involves cutting through your protective defense mechanisms that have historically provided you a protective barrier from painful experiences.
The good news is that although there is a potential for more painful experiences in the beginning, that can be a necessary process in order to find relief through your new insights. From that point, a therapist can then help guide those insights into new positive actions.
Therapists do more than just listen.
The movie cliché of the patient reclining on a fainting couch and only getting a “How does that make you feel?” response is reminiscent of the early days of psychotherapy.
Therapy should be a fully interactive process because. When it is done well, there is a mutual rapport and identified goals designed for you to find relief of symptoms and overall improvement around your challenges.
At the start of therapy, I tend to ask more questions and weigh in less with solutions or guidance; however, as the relatoinship and process continues, I will share my thoughts when I think it will be helpful.
But therapists don’t tell you what to do.
People sometimes get therapists and coaches confused. Therapists are there to guide you to solutions that we think are in your best interest, but won’t directly suggest what you need to do.
All too often, clients will ask me what I think they should do. I’m not the expert on your life, you are! My goal is to help you look at things in your life through a new lens and then allow you to make changes in your life that feel authentic to you.
You get out of it what you put in. Do the homework.
Often times therapy involves homework that makes you feel like you are back in middle school. Some clients ask outright for assignments and I am more than happy to comply (I love homework). Others feel a little ridiculous completing some of the exercises and assessments.
Homework is given because it works. And it is important to be honest with your therapist when they are assigning something that really won’t be a fit for you. If you aren’t a reader, the therapist shouldn’t be assigning lengthy books. Working together with the therapist should be providing you valuable resources and assignments that are helpful and doable for you.
Therapy does not have to be all about your childhood. Unless you are a child.
One common barrier people report to going to therapy is that they are not interested in rehashing childhood issues. They lived through it and they are done with it.
To be completely transparent, childhood traumas can inform some of the maladaptive behaviors we may be using as adults. The reality is that very often a therapist can use this information to identify and connect the residual effects of early life experiences and then move forward to begin working on changing current cognitive distortions and using behavioral intervention techniques to create beneficial changes.
You will not be in therapy for the rest of your life.
Therapists do not have the goal of becoming your life partner. If so, they should be following up with their local ethics board. Our objective is simple:
Identify the areas in your life that you are interested in improving.
Provide psychoeducation on how and why things may have gone sideways.
Explore tools you have been using up to this point to try to manage said challenges.
Provide intentional and proactive solution-focused changes.