This article is going to list a number of suggestions about how to do your part of the work necessary to making your therapy a success. My list will be more or less in order of what needs your attention, but after the numbers 1 through 3, you can determine the order of importance yourself.
- Decide if this therapist is a very good choice for you, or not. Notice if you feel comfortable with this therapist, if you “click” with her/his personality. Don’t settle if you just don’t really like this person, or if you get the feeling she/he doesn’t much like you. Also ask yourself if this person is a good choice for you in terms of knowledge, experience and competence in whatever areas you need. For example, if you know you are going to be doing trauma work, don’t let some young therapist “learn on” you. If she/he hasn’t got trauma training and experience, look elsewhere. If you think this therapist is a really good fit but later change your mind, reconsider the fit. Also look into my article about negative transference, which I won’t go into here, but is often why people leave their therapist when they would have gained more by staying.
- If one of these areas is weak, I recommend you keep looking for another therapist who can fill both requirements for trust building ( personality and knowledge). You can, of course, go through the process of speaking your mind to the therapist and asking them to improve whatever it is you find them lacking, but this will likely only lead to the therapist’s growth, and not yours. I don’t think it is a good idea to bolster the therapist ( as you may have had to do with your parent(s)?) Therapists don’t get to learn on the job while you are paying for their help. You deserve to have a therapist who is ready to go with you, and to be the leader in the therapy.
- Once you’ve made your choice and are building trust, get engaged with your work. Getting engaged means thinking along with the therapist, answering questions thoughtfully , bringing up thoughts you have about yourself that pop into your mind, and saying when you think the therapist is going in the wrong direction, or going somewhere you aren’t ready for, etc. etc. Engaging with your whole self, thoughts and feelings, and speaking of them so the therapist knows for sure what your reaction is to whatever is going on, is probably the most helpful thing you can do to get the most out of your therapy. Your thinking along with the therapist and saying what occurs to you makes for two brains working instead of one. And your brain knows you! I have clients who are interested with a passion about what’s going on in session and are deeply involved, and others who honestly believe that if they show up and listen, that’s all they have to do “to get better.” There’s nothing further from the truth.
- The issue of trust is significant. It may take you awhile to trust the therapist enough to speak up about what you are thinking, or cry when you feel tears, but if you aren’t ready and aren’t ready and this goes on for weeks, either bring this up or go find a different therapist. . Therapists are trained to tune in to their client’s and it’s their job to help you feel at ease by letting you know you that are interesting to him/her, and that you are accepted as you are. If you continue to feel less than comfortable with the therapist as a person, it could be the wrong therapist for you, or it could be something from your history that could be addressed successfully.
- Remember the therapist is hired help. It’s the therapist’s job to reach you, whatever level of emotional intelligence you are at. The therapist needs to explain things so you understand. You don’t have to impress them, or not hurt their feelings, or be concerned how you express yourself. The therapist is supposed to come to you, where you are in every aspect, not the otherway around.