“It’s also important to recognize that if there are people in your life who don’t support you getting therapy, you don’t have to tell them you’re going,” Henry adds. “As long as you’re over 18, everything is confidential, so you can have boundaries surrounding who you let in and who you don’t.”
9. Make sure you really show up and are present.
Physically showing up (on time) is a given, but being mentally present and focused throughout the session is also crucial, Henry says.
“Sometimes people are just really busy and fly into their session and [I ask], ‘Well, tell me what’s on your mind today,’ and they haven’t really thought about it,” she says. “Because you’re paying for that time, you want to really get the most out of it, so it can also be helpful when scheduling to make sure that you’re not going to be rushed trying to get there, or be late and then fly in there feeling totally stressed out.”
10. Have positive yet realistic expectations.
A common misconception is that therapists will give you advice and tell you exactly how to better your life in the span of a session or two. That’s not how it works.
“It’s key to understand that you’re not going to come in for one counseling session and everything’s going to be different, that everything’s going to be fixed,” Henry says. “It can have so much impact if you go into it expecting it to be helpful and expecting it to be productive, and that your counselor will help you reach your own conclusions and act for yourself, not make decisions for you.”
Henry urges clients to approach therapy with curiosity and be prepared to take a deeper look at the way they currently behave, think, and feel, as well as what life experience may have contributed to that.
Ways to move forward in between sessions and after concluding therapy…
11. Do your homework.
Some therapists may give homework assignments or reflective activities for the person to engage in between sessions, which might include things like journaling about or reflecting on certain areas of your life, noting when something you discussed in therapy comes up for you, or practicing certain skills, Dr. Rodriguez says.
“But even if the therapist doesn’t do that, journaling your experiences and keeping notes on what aspects of your time with the therapist are playing out in your life can be helpful,” he says. “It can serve as a good practice for you to be able to do that so you have materials to bring into the therapist to share with them and process these things that may be working or not working to help you get the most that you can out of therapy.”
12. Practice self-care in between sessions.
Counseling can be really difficult and can bring up a lot of upsetting feelings, which is why it’s all the more important to be patient, show yourself grace and compassion, and give yourself some time to recover if things are getting difficult, Henry says. For that reason, Henry doesn’t recommend scheduling a session immediately before or after a big work meeting, presentation, or other event that may leave you feeling stressed and not in the best emotional state.
“I try to never schedule anything after a session because sometimes they can be emotionally draining,” Victoria adds. “After particularly rough sessions (i.e. lots of crying), I’ll go get ice cream or something that makes me feel better.”
“Schedule a come-down time after your session,” Celeste R., 36, of Arlington, Virginia, tells SELF. “You may have cried or feel tired after the session, so protect the 30-60 minutes after the session to give your body and mind time to recuperate.”
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