How to get the most out of therapy

How to Get the Most Out of Therapy


Therapy is a big investment of time and money. We also know it is a lot of work and can have a huge payoff. Here are a few suggestions for getting the most out of therapy.


  • Keep your appointments: It seems obvious, but many people are inconsistent with their attendance and don’t make therapy sessions a priority. Nothing slows down your progress faster than cancelling appointments. It is not just the guidance from your therapist that is lost by not attending, but also the accountability and follow-through on assignments.


  • Work between sessions: Your work between sessions is also key. If you only devote 45-50 minutes per week (the therapy “hour”) to your problems, progress is likely to be slow and this can lead to getting discouraged. Try to complete the assignments given by your therapist.


  • Come prepared: Bring your questions, successes, and struggles. Have an idea of what you’d like to address during the session.


  •  Take notes: I strongly encourage taking notes during your session. A lot gets covered and it is difficult to remember everything. Reviewing your notes between sessions can also be a great reinforcer.


  • Be honest and vulnerable: Therapy is an appropriate place to share your true feelings. Your therapist can cope with anger, crying, and everything in between. Trying to impress or show your therapist your “best self” is counter productive. Allow your authentic self to emerge and healing will follow.


  • Be hopeful: Believe change and healing are possible. If you are discouraged with the therapy process, talk to your therapist. Sometimes plateaus, or even regressions, are a normal part of the change process and sometimes they are a sign that a new approach is needed. Your therapist wants you to succeed, not just keep seeing him/her every week.


  • Have clear goals: If you don’t know what you want to achieve in therapy, you won’t know if/when you’ve achieved it.



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Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.

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