From Anxiety to Zen

Getting you on the other side of anxiety

11 Tips to Maximize Your Psychotherapy Sessions

How to bounce off the couch quicker.

How long do clients spend in psychotherapy?

According to a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, 42 percent of people in psychotherapy stay for 3 to 10 visits, while 1 in 9 have more than 20 sessions.

Counseling is costly on many levels -- it’s an expenditure of your time, money, and emotional energy. The tips below will serve as a guide for increasing the lessons learned, beyond the 50-minute hour.

Therapy is like any endeavor -- the more effort you exert, the more productive the outcome, and the better you will feel. ‘Talk therapy’ is a misnomer, of sorts– it requires a lot more that just talk. It’s a highly interactive and action-oriented process, and you’re in the driver’s seat. You are the expert on your life, after all.

How to save time and money on your psychotherapy intervention:

1. Make a list of issues you want to discuss. This is useful to organize your thoughts, and prioritize the areas of concern that are causing the most stress.


2. Be mindful of your most pervasive negative thoughts and feelings experienced during the week, including when, where, and with whom they occur. These automatic and unhealthy “scripts” can be highly unconscious, and so prevalent you may be unaware of their existence.


3. Bring a notepad to jot down ideas, exercises, or resources suggested by your therapist. There’s a lot going on in session and with so many different ideas floating around your head, you may not remember some of the important points discussed.


4. Do your homework! A 50-minute session can go by fast. Homework is a way of augmenting the hard work done in session, and most importantly, it keeps you connected to your mind and body.

 

5. Take care of yourself. Small lifestyle changes can significantly increase emotional and physical well-being. Your mood and energy levels should improve through exercise, deep-breathing, and relaxation and visualization exercises. Other healthful tips include reducing your intake of caffeinated beverages, alcohol and drugs, and making sleep a priority.


6. Communicate with your doctor or psychiatrist if you’re taking psychotropic medications (or any other medicines). Be open and honest about results, side effects, and compliance. Sometimes medicine dosages, types, and frequencies need to be adjusted before the desired outcome is achieved.


7. Let your feelings be known. If you disagree with your therapist, or experience a particularly strong emotional reaction to something s/he said during the previous session, speak on it. While therapists are trained to observe different forms of communication, we are not mind readers. It’s empowering for you to initiate an uncomfortable conversation, and address negative feelings about therapy.


8. Be prepared to work hard and feel uncomfortable. Therapy is often the first place where disturbing, heart-wrenching, and traumatic memories and events are acknowledged. Be honest about the material you feel comfortable working on, yet be open enough to trust the professional sitting across from you. A good clinician is attuned to their clients experiences, and knows when to alter the pace and direction of the intervention.


9. Accept the truth. We all use denial as a defense mechanism from time to time, but one can only deny reality for so long. You’ve already made a vital and possibly life-altering decision to undergo therapy, so give yourself the opportunity to see your relationships and circumstances in a more honest light.


10. Laugh. A sense of humor helps every situation.


11. ACTION is where it’s at. Whether you entered therapy to cope with a romantic break-up, chronic interpersonal problems, or social anxiety, positive change will occur when you commit to changing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.


The best of luck with your therapy intervention!

*****

An edited version of this article appeared on TalkTherapyBiz.

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Linda Esposito, LCSW is a psychotherapist helping adults and teens overcome stress and anxiety.

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