Therapists Share 7 Ways You Can Be “Good” at Getting Therapy

updated Jul 30, 2020
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Therapy is a big investment, so it makes sense you’d want to get the most out of it.

While being “good” at therapy isn’t the goal, therapists agree that some client mindsets and behaviors are more helpful than others in the therapeutic process. Whether you’re currently receiving therapy or simply considering it, here are some therapists’ best tips for being open, ready, and prepared.

Understand your role vs. the therapist’s

The first step to a successful therapy journey is understanding what your therapist is there for and what role you play in the process. “The therapist’s role is to guide and facilitate transformative healing by providing a safe, emotionally attuned space for clients to explore their inner world,” says Karen J. Helfrich, LCSW-C, of Avalon Psychotherapy Associates. “The therapist can only create the space and extend the invitation, but not do the inner work for the client. Most people who seek therapy already have this open mindset and want to do the work.”

Don’t bow out when things get hard

Along the same lines, keep in mind that it’s not the therapist’s job to make you happy, but to help you grow — which might feel uncomfortable at points. If you begin to feel stretched, don’t bow out too soon. “Know that things might get harder before they get easier. Opening ourselves up to our feelings, emotions, and experiences can be painful,” says Lisa Olivera, a marriage and family therapist in Berkeley, CA. “If therapy begins to feel harder, it’s not because you’re moving backwards, but because you’re finally allowing yourself to face your whole self head on. Trust the process.”

Give your therapist a good shot

If you feel like your therapist isn’t a good fit, trust your instincts. But before making your decision, give it some time. “Once you pick a therapist to work with, stay with them for three months and do weekly sessions. After a few months if you don’t feel like progres has been made, then make a change,” says marriage and family therapist Katie Ziskind.

Set yourself up for success

A therapist is there to support you. But only you know what you actually need to grow. Something as simple as what time of day you schedule your appointments can make a big difference, says marriage and family therapist Christine Scott-Hudson of Create Your Life Studio. “Choose the right time of day for you to feel alert and ready to process deep feelings,” she says. “For example, you don’t want to choose to see your therapist when you have to rush back to an important office meeting.”

Be open and honest about what’s working and what’s not

It may feel intimidating to be honest about something you dislike in your therapist’s approach, but remember, you’re the client. Scott-Hudson recommends being as honest as possible about the therapy process so you can get the most out of it. “Let your therapist know what is helping the most and the least so she can tailor to fit your needs. Practice giving feedback right in the room — it’s a skill you can develop in therapy that will serve you well in other settings,” she says.

Pay attention to your wins

Investing time, money, and emotional energy can be a lot to manage, so be sure to keep track of your wins as you go. “Notice when you shift a thought, acknowledge when you set a boundary, and pay attention to the little ways you implement what you discover in therapy in daily life,” says Olivera. “Make room for what’s going well. It’s so important to root yourself on through this process.”

Make therapy a priority

Even if you don’t feel like you’re making progress, psychology Aimee Daramus says making therapy a priority is key for mental health. “The inside of your head is the most valuable real estate you’ll ever live in, so don’t put it in second place. You’ll get a lot more out of therapy if you’re consistent,” she says.