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How to Get the Most Out of Therapy

Written by Karla Angel, Clinical Intern at Clear Path Counseling and Wellness

March 28, 2024

Therapy is a unique and individual process. Through conversations with a therapist, you sometimes have these big “ah-ha” moments, and other times, a small thing said in session sticks with you for days, weeks, even years. You see progress when you start feeling calmer, safer, or happier. Relationships improve and deepen. Your behaviors change in ways that you want.

But what about those times when you feel like you’re in a lull in the therapy process? You’ve consistently come to session after session but either change is coming too slowly or you’re feeling stuck. Here are ideas about how to make this process work for you:

  1. Tell your therapist! Therapy is collaborative and your feedback matters. You absolutely can let your therapist know that you’re feeling this way so you can explore options for working together differently.

  2. Ask for more of what you want from your therapist. Some therapists are more directive or prescriptive than others, some focus on thoughts more than feelings (or vice versa). Therapists are trained in a variety of different models and approaches, and some models may be more effective for you than others. If you think there’s something that would be helpful for you, ask your therapist for it. They’ll be able to provide you either with what you want or they may challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Either way, you will open the door for you both to check in on how it’s going.

  3. Be sure that your therapist’s method of treatment or their therapeutic modality works for you. Different modalities try to create change in different ways, and it may be that the modality your therapist is using doesn’t work as well for you as another approach might. For example, the popular therapeutic modality of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) focuses principally on reorganizing your thoughts and behaviors. If you generally have a hard time noticing your thoughts, or you dislike behavioral interventions—you might have a tough time with CBT. Most therapists have awareness about multiple modalities, even ones they are not trained in, and are happy to work with you to try something new or point you to another therapist with a different skill set.

  4. Finally, the relationship and trust you have with your therapist matters. If there’s been something in the relationship that feels off or needs to be processed together, you can bring this up with your therapist so that the two of you can attempt to repair it and move forward together. If the idea of bringing up items 1-3 scares you or makes you ill at ease, you can take a small step by communicating that with your therapist, who may be able to help you feel comfortable speaking up for your needs. A good therapist will be able to hear where you are coming from and respond non-defensively to your feedback.

One final word on “progress”: sometimes you might not feel like progress is being made, even when your therapist does. Know that change can be incredibly subtle, or even unseen by the person changing. Progress occurs over time, like a tiny seed that can grow into a giant sequoia hundreds of feet tall. Sometimes words spoken in session can take years to sink in before their full impact is understood, and deeply grooved patterns often require consistent, repeated efforts in order to shift. Recognize and accept that the therapy process is rarely linear and can be messy. A great relationship with your therapist is an essential component of deep and meaningful change.

Edited by Kristen Radtke & Alane Petrowski Directors at Clear Path Counseling & Wellness


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