While it might sound silly, counselling is not like going to the theatre to watch a movie. Oh sure, both involve attending an event at a specific time. Both involve sitting down in a comfortable chair (usually). But that is where the similarity ends. Watching a movie is a passive, spectator activity.

To get the most out of counselling, I recommend not taking a passive, spectator approach. Instead, consider making use of the following:

a) Prepare ahead of time.  Think about your experiences since the last counselling appointment. Would you say that you have made progress, remained the same, or actually taken a step or two backwards? What helped, or got in the way? Note any thoughts, feelings, or behaviour which seem worthwhile for discussion.

b) Participate actively.  Your therapist is there to guide you; but that does not mean it is better to sit back and wait to be told what to do. If questions pop into your mind, ask them. If you start to think or feel anything during the session, bring it up. If you disagree with your therapist, or have concerns about the counselling, it is perfectly acceptable to say so. (In fact, it is usually far better to say it, than to worry about being polite and keep it to yourself.)

c) Unless you have a photographic memory, don’t fool yourself; half an hour after the session, you’ll forget a lot of what was said during the appointment. Jotting down notes on paper or on your handheld device during the session is well worth the effort. It is frustrating to realize something new and helpful, only to forget it by the next day. In addition, I usually recommend one or more tasks to work on after the session, and having a note increases the chances of successfully completing this assignment.

d) As mentioned above, I usually recommend one or more tasks to work on after the session is finished. Life is busy, and “homework” is not something most of us want. On the other hand, between-session practice almost always helps to reach your goals faster and more efficiently. In fact, sometimes it is just not possible to get there without putting in some time and effort on practice.