A common misconception about counseling is that its success depends only on the therapist’s skills, knowledge, and expertise. While this is important, other aspects of the therapy experience and relationship are equally, and often more, important. As a client, there are things you can do to help make your counseling process a positive and productive one. The following tips can give you some ideas about how to get the most out of your counseling experience.
- Be an informed consumer: Whether counseling is new to you or you’ve been involved for a while, you’ll likely have questions about the process and how it works. You may wonder about your counselor’s background or style as a therapist or why they’ve chosen a specific type of treatment for you. Don’t hesitate to ask these questions to your therapist. Your therapist wants to help you learn about the counseling process, have realistic expectations for it, and understand your role within it. No question is too simple.
- Keep the work going outside of session: Although the time you spend in session with your therapist is important, it’s only one part of the change process. You spend much more time outside of therapy than you do with your therapist, and it’s important that changes you make generalize to the rest of your life. Your counselor may suggest things to do between meetings (e.g., engaging in self-care, tracking your emotions, keeping a journal), and doing this “homework” can help you maximize the benefits you receive in therapy.
- Be active and engaged: Therapy works best when it is a collaborative effort between you and your therapist. Your counselor brings to the table knowledge and experience gained through years of training, but you’re still the expert on your own life. You know best about how a certain issue is affecting you, and this knowledge can be an incredible asset for therapy. Coming to session with ideas about specific problems that you’d like to discuss can help your therapist have a better idea of how to help you.
- Remember that change is good, and it’s also a process: The problems that brought you to counseling likely developed over an extended period of time, maybe throughout your entire life. Because of this, change doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient and compassionate with yourself as you work through your concerns, and know that there may be ups and downs along the way. Every step that you make toward change is a positive one.