Succeeding in Therapy

Succeeding in Therapy: Tips for Making the Most of the Opportunity

By Natalie Buchwald, LMHC | Last Updated: June 15th, 2023
Reviewed by Steven Buchwald

Once you make the decision to seek therapy—whether to process a traumatic event, treat a specific mental illness or to improve your overall health and well-being—you’ve taken a huge step forward toward wellness. However, it’s just the first step. Many people, unfortunately, see therapy as a sort of “magic pill” that should make them better almost automatically. If you approach it in that way, you’re effectively wasting an opportunity.

True success in therapy involves a cooperative effort between you and your therapist as you work together toward better mental health. It requires commitment both to yourself and to the process. Let’s discuss some practical tips that will help you gain the most benefit from your therapy experience.

Show Up for Sessions

We know it seems obvious to say this, but it’s actually surprising how many people miss or cancel their scheduled sessions with their therapist. Sometimes it’s oversight or circumstances beyond their control—but it can also be a means of avoidance. 80% of success is showing up as Woody Allen said. Attending therapy sessions every week is essential for therapy to work. You might be reluctant at times, especially if you’re dealing with uncomfortable issues you wish to avoid—but those are actually the times you most need to be there. You’ll make much better headway just by making the commitment to show up—no matter what.

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Bonus tip: Make sure you select a weekly session time that actually works for your specific schedule. Don’t let scheduling conflicts get in the way of your mental health.

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk in Therapy

Many people approach therapy with their internal defenses up. That’s natural, especially in the beginning when you and your therapist are still getting to know one another. But therapy is designed to be a safe space where you can say whatever comes to mind without fear of judgment or repercussion. Your therapist is trained not to take anything you say personally.  Importantly, they’re trained to listen for those key moments in the conversation when healing truths come to light. The sooner you are able to relax and give yourself permission to speak what’s on your mind and how you feel, the sooner you’ll start to see your therapy sessions become more productive.

Do Your Homework

The assignments your therapist may give you to do at home are every bit as important as the sessions themselves—and even more so. One truth many people miss is that the therapist isn’t really the healer—you are. Therapy provides you the opportunity to work on yourself and move toward better mental health. Those off-time assignments are the catalyst for you to discover key truths about yourself, to learn better mental habits, and to practice those habits. That work is where the real healing happens. Don’t shrug it off.

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Be Protective of Your Therapy

By this statement, we mean you should set some boundaries around your therapy process. While you’re going through therapy, be guarded about what you share about your sessions, and with whom. Everyone has an opinion on what you need to do, and while some close confidants may be safe enough, not everyone in your circle will have your best interests at heart. Those that have not gone to therapy themselves might not be able to understand what you are going through. Remember, this process is yours, and you have the right to keep anyone out of the process.

Finally, bear in mind that therapy is not a one-way street. It’s a collaboration between you and your therapist. The more personal responsibility you take for improving your mental health, the more committed you’ll be to the process, and the better results you’ll see from your efforts. Therapy is a wonderful opportunity to know yourself better and getting out of your own way. Make the most of it!