Cindy Gullo, LCPC - Therapist & Counselor
The Blog

Your 10-Step Plan to Winning at Therapy

Showing up to therapy is enough – showing up with a plan is better.

You’ve already made the commendable choice to seek out help for yourself. Your next smart decision is to learn exactly how to help yourself. Unsurprisingly, the secret is largely to do with helping your therapist to help you. Here’s how:

How to Get the Most Out of Therapy

Find Support That Fits

Therapists are, unfortunately, not one-size-fits-all. When doing your research into finding what mental health care works for you, you’ll likely come across many therapy categories.

Some being:

  • Couples therapy.
  • Marriage and family counseling.
  • Addiction therapy.
  • Behavioral therapy.
  • Divorce therapy.
  • Grief therapy.

And the list goes on …

Such an extensive list may leave you reaching for the therapist that’s conveniently down the road: think twice. For effective sessions that produce optimal, long-lasting results, you’ll want to find a therapist that’s trained in dealing with your issues. Think of it like buying bread. Sure, it’s good at the grocery store, but it’s great at the bakery – a place designated for making bread. Therapy is no different.

So, while you can certainly still search “therapist near me,” we’d suggest you change it oh-so-slightly to “therapists near me.”

Have a Plan of Action

Once you’ve found the right flavor of support for you, it’s time to get things in order. You’ll likely have an initial consultation with your therapist before your first session. Don’t worry; you won’t be getting too deep just yet; you’ll likely just be asked for your motivations for going to therapy.

Despite the casual aspect, come prepared as though for a job interview. It can be helpful to prepare to take notes about what you want to talk about and what you hope to accomplish in therapy, whether that’s changing behavior that you’re working on, thinking about future goals, dealing with depression or anxiety symptoms, or other difficulties you’re facing.

Set Landmarks

Psychotherapy is not a straight-line solution to your problems. It’s more like a winding path that might even turn back on itself sometimes. That’s why it’s best to think of therapy as a process that builds constructive habits and thought patterns bit by bit.

So, when old thought processes arise, or you fall back into bad habits, don’t beat yourself up. If you set landmarks, you and your therapist can always look back on how well you’ve done. You’ll both know that you don’t need to start from square one, meaning that all progress is never lost.

Get Down to Business

Before diving into your deepest thoughts, it’s best to get all of the pesky paperwork out of the way first. The last thing you want is to interrupt a major breakthrough or have to quickly wipe away tears to write a check or schedule your next appointment. So, get to know your therapy insurance. Schedule your appointments in advance. Figure out how much parking nearby costs, and don’t let the logistics get in the way of you and your self-care moment.

View Therapy as a Collaboration

Your therapist is not the enemy. They’re on your side when it comes to you vs. your demons. Their aim is always your progress. In other words, they’re not picking on you but rather trying to help you pick apart your problems and make sense of them so you can move forward.

That said, therapy also isn’t a spectator sport. It’s a psychological tango that takes two. All you need to do is put in the effort while your therapist acts as your guide.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your therapist about therapy – they don’t bite. In fact, conversing with your therapist is one of the best ways to identify reoccurring themes or patterns in your sessions that could be your one-way ticket to a breakthrough.

Schedule Sessions Wisely

Vulnerability isn’t easy. Digging deep into that which bothers you most requires as much, if not more, mental strength than the physical expenditure of digging an actual hole. And just like you might prepare to dig a hole, you should also prepare for your therapy sessions.

Knowing exactly when and where you’ll have to confront your darkest thoughts helps you to get into the right mindset to not only share them but face them down as well.

That thing you Don’t Want to Say? Say it

It’s sitting there at the edge of your mind and the tip of your tongue – but how do you get it out? Be brave – just for one moment – it’s all that’s needed. So often, that one sentence you hold so near also becomes the pivotal moment in your therapy session.

Something to remember: Your therapist has likely heard it all before, and judging isn’t in the job description.

Set Boundaries Around Therapy

What happens in therapy stays in therapy. Well, not always – but usually, it’s for the best. You see, therapy is largely a personal endeavor you decide to do for yourself. Along the way, you and your therapist forge a connection, sorting through your problems one by one as you make significant progress, all from within the sanctuary that is your therapist’s office.

That’s why, when you tell your friends, family or whoever else about what goes on inside therapy (and you’ll certainly be asked a lot) it’s best to shoot back with a, “Not much, really. It’s going good though.” Otherwise, you risk hearing opinions and perspectives that could put your hard-earned progress at risk.

Savor the Process

At its most fundamental level, therapy is about becoming a better you. You face down your problems to free yourself of them. While it can be full of tears, pain, and days where you just don’t want to show up, it’s also brings moments of relief, introspection, and even joy. So, take a moment now and then to breathe during a session, remind yourself why you took the brave step to help yourself, and put yourself at ease so your counsellor can help you better.

Continue The Work Outside Session

Remember when you were told to practice playing piano in between lessons? Or, more often, told to do homework? The same principle applies to therapy!

It’s important to stay mindful of the breakthroughs you make during sessions while implementing new, healthier thought processes and habits into your day-to-day life so that they really stick. Be sure to take notes on how what you’ve learned in therapy is effecting your life so that you can get your therapists opinion.

And that’s that!

As we’ve learned from above, don’t be afraid to search for “therapist near me” just be sure to find the right one, and then do everything in your power to make sure you squeeze every last drop of wellbeing and life-changing clarity out of your sessions by giving your counselor the space to help you.