Three ways to get the most out of counseling

There's a lot of information out there about how to find a therapist who is a good fit for you and what the benefits of counselling might be. But what can you as a client do to get the most out of your sessions? What tips or techniques can you use to help your counselling process along and use the time you have with your therapist as effectively as possible?

#1: Make notes before and after every session, and read back through them the following week.

Even if you never see them write anything down while you're with them, your therapist will be keeping notes. So why shouldn't you? Before your session begins, write down a few things you'd like to talk about that day. This will help you clarify your thoughts and figure out what your real priorities are. After you leave, write down your takeaways: what you've learned and figured out, and what you'd like to work on before next session. Read back through these notes before your next appointment begins, to help give yourself a sense of continuity and keep the work fresh in your mind.

#2: Address your relationship with your therapist upfront, even when it makes you uncomfortable.

The relationship between client and therapist is the core of every counselling session, and most therapists agree it's that dynamic that brings real progress. This means there are a great deal of benefits to be had from tackling that relationship head-on, even (perhaps especially!) when it's difficult or awkward to do. Have they misinterpreted you and come away with a skewed understanding of what you were trying to say? Has something they said upset you, annoyed you, or rubbed you up the wrong way? Are you beginning to notice that you think about them a great deal outside of sessions, as a guide or a parental figure or someone you want to spend more time with? Tell them! They're trained in how to have these conversations, and the professional intimacy and therapeutic bond fostered by them can be game-changing.

#3: Go toward the things that you find yourself wanting to avoid, and shine a light on them.

Everyone has things they don't like to talk about. Sometimes this is a response to hurt; a difficult time in your life you don't want to dredge up, or a feeling created by people not listening to or accepting you in the past. Sometimes it's rooted in a sense of shame, or a fear of being judged. Whatever the reason, it's the things you're reluctant to bring up that can often bring the most progress when you find a way to work on them. A good starting point is to tell your therapist that there's something you're struggling to discuss and let them guide you through the process of making it easier. They'll help you get into the thorny parts of your mind in a way that's supported and safe, and over time you'll find this can be a life-changing experience.

For more information on counselling services, contact a professional near you.