When therapy is an investment of your time, energy, & money, I want to help you get the most out of your sessions (whether it’s with myself or with another therapist)! Sometimes there are weeks where everything that could go wrong, does go wrong (you may swear Mercury is in retrograde). Other weeks it may seem like things are smooth-sailing, and you wonder what you’ll talk about in session.
Here are 3 tips for making the most of your time in your next therapy session, regardless of how your week has gone.
1) Plan ahead AND learn to go with the flow, simultaneously.
Make a running list of your concerns/thoughts/realizations/challenges/successes between sessions. Because feeling overwhelmed, emotionally charged, and scattered gets the best of our very human brains, taking some time before session to organize your thoughts can be helpful. Make an effort to prioritize and list issues in order of greatest importance, and then estimate difficulty of talking about each issue.
As for feeling uncomfortable about talking about certain topics, know that you can go at your own speed. You can start with the easiest thing to talk about and then work your way up to the most difficult topic. Be aware though if this becomes a pattern and you always avoid the most difficult issues or wait until the last minute(s) of session to talk about what is really bothering you. (Your therapist may gently point this out too…remember, you have to get uncomfortable in order to grow.)
For those like to cross things off their to-do list right in order, be mindful if that is how you approach your therapy session. Try to allow things to flow in session. When conversation deviates from your plan, trust that your therapist is guiding you in a way that will ultimately serve you in that moment. Your therapist may help you look at something more in-depth, confront what you are avoiding, or help you connect-the-dots with past and current patterns. As hard as it may be, allow yourself to be in the present and let go of control.
2) Take a couple minutes to breathe and center yourself before going into session, or at the start of therapy. As a Licensed Professional Counselor AND Registered Yoga Teacher, I can't deny the importance of the mind-body connection. Use the breath to help soothe your nervous system so you can wrangle those racing thoughts just a bit. (Most of my clients struggle with anxiety in some form, so that’s why I’m sharing specifically on how to relax your mind & body. You can also use your breath to wake yourself up from a foggy, depressed state.)
Generally speaking when aiming to calm yourself, focus on making your exhale longer than your inhale. Breathe in for 4 counts, exhale for 6. You may even progress up to breathing in for 4 counts and exhaling for 8. You can use lavendar oil to soothe, or peppermint or citrus oil to perk yourself up if anxiety has left you running ragged. Try rubbing oil on your wrists or temples and breathing it in; it's a great way to take a mindful reset!
3) Practice being unfiltered and honest. Whether it's journaling and/or talking to a friend that you really trust, learning to be raw and real with your thoughts and emotions is essential to getting the most out of therapy.
For certain personality types, such as the independent & perfectionistic types, being vulnerable is harder (trust me, when I say “I get it… I really do”). If you find that it tremendously difficult over time, talk to your therapist about that, (especially if your therapist is me :)) . Your therapist can help you figure out if it’s anything in the therapy room that is contributing to your vulnerability blocks, and/or if it is your own process of learning it’s okay to be authentic.