How to set yourself up for success in therapy

May 4, 2018

Once you have decided you have found the right therapist, it’s time to start thinking about your treatment goals. Many therapists have their own way of setting out goals or asking you to think about them. Whatever their process may be, your goals should be personal and focused on things that you have control over.

Here’s a good example:

Scenario: Stress at work has been causing extreme anxiety, making it difficult for Mark to get to work every day.

Appropriate goals:

  1. Learn how to better manage stress
  2. Develop strategies to navigate difficult relationships with coworkers
  3. Improve work/life balance

Inappropriate goals:

  1. Change your boss’s behavior
  2. Make your spouse be more supportive
  3. Double your paycheck

Treatment should be about YOU, and your goals should reflect behavior or situational elements that you can work to change.

That said, therapy is a team effort. Actively partnering with your provider throughout treatment helps you to achieve your goals. So what does teamwork look like in the context of therapy? Here are a few keys to building a successful working relationship with your therapist:

Share your history. Offer information about the circumstances that have brought you to therapy and any other relevant history that may be contributing to your experience.

Explore past successes and challenges. If you’ve had past success with managing emotional or environmental stressors, tell your therapist what has worked. Nobody knows better than you what has made a positive difference. You may also share past experiences in therapy, if any, and let your therapist know what worked for you and what didn’t.

Help your therapist help you. Let your therapist know if something doesn’t feel helpful. This may be an opportunity to learn more about treatment and step outside of your emotional comfort zone or change the approach. Either way, it is valuable and important for the therapist to understand your needs and reactions.

Ask questions about your care. Don’t hesitate to ask your therapist about questions — shared decision-making is crucial to ensuring you receive personalized care that works for you. You are entitled to ask questions, learn about the care you are receiving, and get answers you need to get the most out of your sessions.

Be open and honest. Above all else, being open and honest with your therapist is the ultimate key to success in treatment. Like every good relationship, clear communication builds a solid and flexible foundation.

Check out these tips for finding the best therapist for you.

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