Getting the Most Out of Psychotherapy
Reveal Yourself, and Voice Your Concerns
It takes courage to tell a relative stranger about your most sensitive issues. So, one of your first goals in therapy may be the discovery of whether you can trust your therapist enough to reveal yourself openly. If you can put your fears into words, a good therapist can help you understand their origin and whether or not they apply to the current situation. As therapy proceeds, if you still find it difficult to trust your therapist, this is a valid issue to bring up and discuss whenever it arises.
I encourage you to reveal thoughts and feelings that aren’t comfortable because these may have the greatest leverage for growth. I achieved much of my current inner peace through pursuing my own therapy. Once I’d established trust in my therapist, I began to trust my own process to the point that the first issue I would bring up in any session was the one with the greatest emotional charge. That practice accelerated my inner healing. If you feel yourself flooded with feelings or obsessing about thoughts so that they interfere with your inner peace, your therapist may help you to take a break from these thoughts and feelings and improve your dialogue with them.
Ask your therapist to explain anything you don’t understand, even if asking the question may reveal that you’re not as knowledgeable as you think you should be. Ask even the “dumb” questions. If you don’t understand the therapist’s answer, ask for clarification or a different explanation or example.
Polite people often find it difficult to say that they’re dissatisfied with how things are going. Because of this, the nicest people often store the most intense resentments because they’re afraid to bring them up. I encourage you to discuss your frustrations early. Therapy is a healing process, and you may get a different response than what you fear. What are some of the useful ways a therapist can respond?
- By taking your complaint seriously
- Being open to changing technique or approach to something that will work for you
- Showing willingness to admit the therapist’s contribution to any dissatisfaction
- Helping you understand your part in the dissatisfying exchange
I encourage you to meet such therapeutic responses with your own best efforts. For example, your chances of success are enhanced if you’re willing to explore your cherished beliefs and attitudes. Be open to discovering your own part in a dissatisfying therapy encounter. This openness can reveal relationship issues you need to address. By understanding the interaction from both sides, you’ve got the opportunity to heal, especially if the therapist responds more openly and fairly than did important figures in your past.
If you still disagree with your therapist’s technique or recommendations, voice your disagreement and invite a discussion about it. This allows the therapist to consider whether her or his technique is the most appropriate and to explore emotional issues that the disagreement may reveal. After such disagreements have been explored thoroughly without a satisfactory resolution, the best solution may be to ask your therapist for referrals to other therapists who may better meet your needs.
Clients soon discover that when therapy starts to get at their emotional issues, it’s no walk in the park. When it reaches this level of intensity, therapy becomes an even more powerful opportunity to make decisions and changes that can transform your life. I encourage you to make your best efforts to help your therapy succeed, including following through on your therapist’s recommendations even if this takes substantial effort.
One of the most difficult tasks for any client is facing the truth about addictions, self-destructive habits or impulsive actions that shut down uncomfortable feelings. Ask your therapist for help in overcoming such issues. The solution may include referrals to a medical doctor, specialist or clinic. If you don’t address these very difficult issues, they’ll continue to block your path to happiness and success — or worse.