To get the most out of counselling, I recommend not taking a passive, spectator approach. While it might sound silly, counselling is not like going to the movie theatre. Psychotherapy works best when you actively participate in it. Here are some ways to help improve your outcomes.
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.
Talk with your therapist about the therapy itself.
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. Anything you think or feel during an appointment is worth bringing 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 better to say what you’re thinking, rather than avoid it to be polite. Rate your progress as you go, and talk with your therapist about how to keep progress moving, and even improve it.
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. Whether it’s on paper or your phone, jotting down ideas for later is well worth the effort. If your counsellor recommends a task to work on after the session, having a note increases the chances of successfully completing the assignment.
Practice, practice, practice.
Receiving one or more “homework” tasks is a normal part of psychotherapy. 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.
What can your therapist do?
Of course, your therapist needs to do some things to improve outcomes as well. If you are interested, here are eight things your therapist should be doing to help.
I would add routine outcome monitoring, or deliberate practice to that list. If you decide to work with me, you’ll get to experience that, as I try to include it in every session.