Getting the Most Out of a Therapy Appointment
Once you make the decision to use therapy as a treatment for a problem that you are struggling with, it will help you to maximize your session if you follow some basic guidelines.
Choose the right therapist
An important component of successful therapy is finding a therapist that feels like a "good match." You can use a referral from your doctor or even clergy as a starting point. These days the internet can help you search for a therapist, but make sure it is a reputable site offering licensed therapists.. Remember you want to find someone who has a degree from an accredited program and someone local to your home or workplace, since convenience is a consideration. You may also need to decide if you feel comfortable with someone from the same gender or opposite gender. Another consideration may be to find out if the therapist has a relationship with another health professional, in case you need emergency help when they are temporarily unavailable.
Understand the costs and your insurance coverage
If finances are a problem, discuss the stipend you can afford as well as the total amount of money you have the ability to spend on a series of sessions. Allowing your therapist to know your financial situation can relieve financial anxiety and stress down the road. Explore your insurance coverage to understand the amount of coverage for each visit and the total coverage you have.
Prepare before each session
The first session is typically a "getting to know you session" and allows both you and the therapist to share information. It helps if you come with some specific written goals, details of why you feel (or your doctor feels) you need therapy, family history in terms of physical and mental health issues and your personal attitude regarding therapy. Specifically, you can ask the therapist about his or her approach to therapy; how long he or she anticipates therapy lasting (even an approximation); how to contact the therapist if a crisis arises; whether or not medication has a place in your therapy. You should also discuss any confidentiality issues you have.
It may be helpful to jot notes during the session so you remember certain recommendations or discoveries you make during the discussion. You may also want to write down any homework or suggestions the therapist makes. Also consider keeping the same notebook or pad handy at home or work, to write down any thoughts, questions, even dreams that you want to share at your next session,.
Talking to a stranger can feel awkward at first, and sharing personal thoughts and issues can feel very threatening. Remember that the therapist wants to guide you to answers, and along the way there may be moments of crying, feelings of shame or humiliation, feelings of confusion and even despair. There will also be moments of new awareness and empowerment as you are guided to goals and solutions.
Each patient moves through therapy at a different pace, so enter therapy with a willingness to take the time needed to allow progress to be made. It is reasonable to re-visit your goals and to evaluate whether or not the time invested is moving you towards a therapeutic outcome.