Guide to therapy. Getting the most out of therapy and counselling
For the purpose of this article, the terms counselling and therapy are used interchangeably. This Guide to therapy is written in the hope that it may help you think about how you might get the best out of your experience of therapy. Therapy comes in many different shapes, sizes and flavours, and this will be influenced by the type of therapy you have (sometimes referred to as modality), your therapist, your reasons for seeking therapy and maybe most of all, what you want from therapy.
The last factor above is “what you want from therapy,” is maybe the most important factor in your therapy. It will help you if you can think about and explore with your therapist (on an ongoing basis) what you want from therapy and have confidence in your therapist that together you can work towards that.
Confidence in your therapist is extremely important, do you feel you are able to trust them, be open with them, and feel safe and not judged? If you answer no to any of these points, it will help you to explore this with your therapist, or, if needed, move on to a therapist that can offer you these elements. Research that points towards successful outcomes for clients in therapy very strongly suggests that the relationship between you and your therapist is often key to successful outcomes.
Sometimes therapy might be an extremely powerful experience, and at these times it is important to remember that, on occasions, feelings can feel very scary, and at these times you need to be able to feel safe and confident in your therapist. If you don’t please tell them, and if you don’t feel heard or understood, maybe they are not the therapist for you.
I sometimes hear people say that therapy didn’t work for them. I sometimes wonder when I hear this that maybe it was the type of therapy and/or therapist that didn’t work for them, not Therapy. It’s a bit like food; the cook and type of food can make a big difference to how satisfied you might feel with your meal. A good therapist should be able to explain clearly what they feel they can offer you, how they work and should be open to hearing from you what you are looking for You may need to talk to a few therapist before choosing one.
Between session, some therapist might suggest you do some “homework” (if appropriate). This can often help you reflect on sessions and get more out of your therapy. Sometimes clients tell me that after therapy they feel tired, and find it beneficial to schedule a treat or relaxation in order to either reflect on what they had done in the session or, if appropriate, to draw a line under the session and “get on with their day”. Experiment and find out what works for you.
One last thing I would like to pass on, is that much of the current research points to successful therapy being largely influenced by a client’s belief, hope and trust that therapy will help them. This can be challenging because at the time of seeking therapy clients might be struggling with hope generally. So, if you are able to be willing and be open to the hope that therapy might offer you, you may well rediscover your own hope, and that, in itself, can be a gift.
I hope what I have conveyed in this brief article is that therapy is for you. It’s an investment you make in you, and as such it should be as you need it to be. The relationship you have with your therapist is key; you need to feel safe and be able to ask for what you want from the sessions.
Andrew Harvey, Counsellor and Therapist