How To Do Therapy Efficiently

Written by: Jorinde Berben
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Since this is the third post I start writing today, I’m not sure I should be writing about efficiency, but here I go anyway.

When I first started going to therapy, with my two previous therapists and even with my current one in the beginning, it was a kind of hit-and-miss show. Sometimes I would have wonderful insights and emotional break-throughs. Other times, we would just talk about how things were going and how I was feeling, but I felt we wouldn’t really get anywhere. At those times, I would be convinced that ‘therapy doesn’t really work, anyway‘ or ‘this is a bad therapist because they’re not bringing out my deepest trauma.’ I took on the role of the ‘recipient‘ of the therapy.
I’ve since learned that there is no such thing.

In therapy and coaching it’s a question of what you bring to the table. You are an active participant. Yes, the coach is there to guide you. Yes, the therapist can help you figure out what’s wrong. But neither of them will do the work for you. No one knows in what area, to what extent and in what way you need to be helped, better than you do. Even if you don’t have awareness in all areas of your psyche (which seems like a tough goal to reach as it is), you can still recognise with which situations, thoughts or emotions you struggle.

It was my partner who first told me: “Oh, but when I go to my therapist, I bring an issue to the table.” At first this sounded odd to me. As if you, as a patient, would know better than the therapist. But then it clicked in my mind: Yes, you do know best what is blocking you. You live with it every day. You run into issues, we all do, that could be tackled in therapy.

My approach to coaching has since changed. When I go to my therapist, I take some time in the days leading up to ask myself which incidents or behaviors I’ve struggled with over the past weeks. Today, I even asked my partner what he noticed me struggle with in particular, since he’s my closest and most dedicated observer.
I usually have about 3-4 issues ready, and we talk through them in the beginning of the session. This could be a discussion I had with my partner, or a moment I snapped at the children and didn’t know why, or a work issue I can’t seem to get a hold of.
We then decide which issue seems to be most pressing and work with that. If there’s time left, we might tackle something else as well.

In my coaching, I notice I will do the same thing. I’ll ask clients to think about which issue they want to deal with before the session. If they have a hard time, I might focus on when they last experienced any of the following emotions: anger, fear, sadness or disgust. Or I’ll ask whether they find themselves procrastinating on certain tasks, or avoiding certain people.

I want to get the most out of my sessions with a therapist, and I want to offer my clients the highest possible value as well for the time I have with them. As a client, you carry the greatest power in what your sessions are worth to you.

Do you want some help in preparing for you next session with a therapist or coach? Ask yourself the following questions:
  • What moments in the past week were hard for me?
  • When did I experience a drop in energy?
  • How have my personal relationships been lately?
  • What did I discuss in the last session, and how has that evolved?
  • When was I angry/afraid/sad lately and what caused those feelings?
  • Do I find myself going toward addictive behaviors? When is that?
  • What have I been saying to myself lately? Has it been helpful or harmful? Why do I say those things?

These are only a few questions to get you started, but they can make a great difference in the quality of your session, or even just help you explore your own mind.

Remember, when it comes to life, and to coaching: You’ll get out of it, what you put into it. And it all starts with what you bring to the table.

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