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10 Ways to Get More Out of Therapy

Use these tips to get more out of psychotherapy.

Key points

  • There are simple but important things you can do to help your therapist and improve your therapy experience.
  • Understanding the rules of therapy, being honest with your therapist, and being sure to attend regularly are important for success.
  • You should also do your therapy “homework” and be open about your concerns.
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I’m a big fan of psychotherapy to treat mental health concerns and other personal and emotional challenges. If evidence-based approaches are used by a competent therapist, psychotherapy is very effective and it can really help reduce your distress and improve your quality of life.

But now let’s talk about some simple but important things you can do to help your therapist. Help your therapist? That’s right. By being more in the know about how to get the most out of therapy, you can make your therapist’s job a bit easier, help them understand you better, and meet your needs more effectively. All of these things can often enable them to help you feel better—sooner, more easily, and with better long-term results.

Here are 10 ways you can help your therapist to help you more:

1. Understand the rules.

Therapy comes with many rules and guidelines to keep you safe and to protect your privacy. These include things like how your therapy records are protected, the confidentiality of information discussed in therapy, maintaining a professional boundary between you and your therapist, how sessions are scheduled, payment, and more. Your therapist will go over all of these at the beginning of therapy and will give you written information. Make sure you understand and observe these policies, and get clarification on any points that are hard to understand.

2. Be honest.

It’s tough to reveal sensitive personal information in therapy and it may take some time before you can open up more fully with your therapist. But do try to be as open and honest as possible. This will help your therapist more fully understand you, your needs, and your concerns, thus allowing them to work with you to put together a more personalized and effective plan for your treatment.

3. Show up.

You can’t get your work done if you aren’t on the job on a regular basis. Similarly, therapy is less effective if you miss sessions, arrive late, leave early or have irregular attendance. Do your best to be consistent in your attendance and you can improve the likelihood that positive change can occur more quickly.

4. Stay focused.

Sometimes a lot of material can get covered in a single therapy session, and it can be hard to remember the important takeaways or insights from the session after it’s over. It can be helpful to bring a notebook and jot down a few notes during or right after the session to capture important points you don’t want to forget or things you need to work on before the next session.

5. Do your homework.

It’s not uncommon for your therapist to recommend homework or assignments to complete between therapy sessions so you can try out and practice new skills or behaviors on your own. While it’s sometimes hard to get these done, make every effort to complete these assignments so you can see if they are helpful and so you can give feedback to your therapist about their benefit (or lack thereof).

6. Share your concerns.

Sometimes it may feel like therapy is just not working. You may think you’re not getting any better or you may not feel entirely comfortable with your therapist. Speak up and tell your therapist about these concerns. They may be able to adjust the focus of therapy or adapt their style to help you feel more at ease and to help you get back on track with noticeable progress.

7. Be open-minded.

Your therapist may suggest new tips, strategies, or tools to help you that you’re not aware of. They may even ask you consider trying something that you felt wasn’t particularly helpful in the past. While you may initially be hesitant or skeptical of these suggestions, keep an open mind and be willing to at least give these ideas a try before completely dismissing them.

8. Ask questions.

If something covered in therapy isn’t clear to you or you don’t understand the reasoning behind one of your therapist’s suggestions, don’t hesitate to ask questions or request them to go over it again with more explanation. Remember this is your therapy and it’s necessary for you to understand what kind of treatment is recommended and the evidence for why it’s effective for your particular concerns.

9. Apply what you have learned.

Therapists will sometimes say that the goal of therapy is to teach you how to be your own therapist. This means you will learn new coping skills which you can use in the future to help you navigate difficult situations more easily. Accordingly, try to intentionally remember and use the new skills you have learned in therapy as you face new challenges in your everyday life.

10. Give it some time.

Change doesn’t occur overnight, so sometimes therapy may continue for several months or longer. Try to notice small improvements you are making. Occasionally stop and think about the contrast between how you are doing now versus when you first started therapy. Then the positive changes you have made may seem more readily apparent. Remind yourself that the time and money you are investing now in therapy is worth it to become happier and healthier in the long run.

I hope these tips can help you get more out of therapy and work more effectively with your therapist. As I’ve said many times, therapy can be life-changing if you put in the effort, stick with it, and consistently use the new skills you’ve learned along the way.

Copyright David Susman 2021.

To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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