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How much benefit you get out of a counseling experience depends a lot on how much you’re willing to put into the process yourself, after all, if you’re not willing to take the therapy seriously, not able to speak honestly in therapy or not willing to practice techniques of behavioral change between sessions, then you cannot expect to make significant progress.

Here are 5 tips for getting the most benefit out of any therapy experience.

Find a Good Therapist

If you want to have a great experience in therapy, try mightily to find a great therapist!

Counselors are like people from any other profession…some are better than others, and since it’s your emotional or mental health on the line here – you definitely want to try to find a counselor that’s effective in what she does.

You want to find someone that is experienced and credentialed, but research has shown that people with master’s degrees counsel about as well as people with doctorate degrees, so the person with more letters after their name is not always the better choice!

Find someone who:

  • Is experienced in working with people dealing with similar challenges to what you face
  • Comes recommended
  • Makes you feel safe and comfortable
  • Seems to like you

Be an Active Participant in the Process

Think about what exactly you hope to get out of therapy and make sure to communicate your hopes with your therapist. Between sessions, think about how you’re feeling and about what may be causing you to feel better or worse and be prepared to bring in specific examples into your next counseling session. It is often helpful to carry a small notebook around so that you can jot down quick notes about what seems to be helping or hurting in dealing with whatever specific challenges you face.

At its best, therapy is a collaboration between you and your therapist – and you are both working towards your own improved emotional health!

Tell the Truth

Your counselor cannot read your mind and so if you cannot or will not speak honestly about your problems, then you cannot hope to achieve much of any benefit from the counseling experience. If you find that you cannot open up with your counselor, then you should consider finding another therapist - one that you feel safer or more comfortable with - to work with.

Stay Committed to the Process

Like anything else in life, you only get out of therapy what you’re prepared to put into it. If you skip sessions, come late, come unprepared or fail to take the advice of your therapist outside of the office then you cannot expect that therapy is going to offer you very much.

Through counseling and effort, major life improvements are very possible – but only if you are prepared to do the work that’s needed.

Do Your ‘Homework’

There is little point in any kind of counseling if you’re not going to use what you learn from therapy sessions in your everyday life.

Make a concerted effort to put your therapist’s recommendations for behavioral or cognitive changes into practice between sessions. Big changes in life don’t often happen overnight and the techniques of behavioral change tend to require a fair amount of practice. By practicing these techniques between sessions, you can also bring your successes and failures back into therapy at the next session, which can help you and your counselor to find out what’s working and what isn’t and to move forward based on that information.

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Page last updated Nov 13, 2014

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