Most people think of therapy as an hour a week session with a licensed clinician. I agree that this seems to be the most common practice. But did you realize that this means that therapy is less than 1% of your week? Yep, it's a small window that you're in a therapy session and if you rely on working out what's going on for you and maximizing your therapy goals only during the time when you're with your therapist, you're missing out! There also might be things happening during the session that isn't supporting your progress. Here are a few tips that could help.
Know your therapy goals
While your therapist may be clear on your therapy goals, you may feel that you're having trouble connecting what's being worked on with your therapist with what you originally came to therapy for. If this is the case and you feel a bit lost, check in with your therapist and ask if you two can review the goals or if the goals need to be adjusted for where you're currently at in your life. This should be a collaborative process so that they can also let you know if these are things they can assist with and help you clarify what might be helpful. But ultimately, the goals are up to you. And if your therapist is not onboard with them or if you don't like the support you're receiving from your thearpist with these goals, it may be time to find a better fit.
Write it down
Writing down notes during your session, directly after your session, and between sessions helps you to track your thoughts and goals. Have you ever shown up to therapy and blanked on what's been going on since you met with your therapist? Or you're getting ready for your session and think, "What did we talk about again? Was there something I was supposed to do?" These thoughts are probably indicators that you need to write it down more. It's not realistic that we remember the breakthrough thoughts and additional areas of reflection from therapy, the things that happened connected to this over the week, and all of the things that we have to keep tabs on in our daily life.
In addition to this, some clinicians are open to you sharing these thoughts with them between sessions. I find this helpful and encourage my clients to send me their reflections so that I can know their experience during that period, sometimes provide them feedback to assist or clarify information, and they can feel supported through it as well.
Homework isn't only for school
I'm a big believer in homework in therapy. I know, sounds wack. It's not as bad as it sounds though. If you think about long term goal setting, setting short term goals that support this larger goal are necessary. Homework is basically a short term goal.
This isn't something that only I provide to my clients but my clients also assign themselves homework, although they may not think of it this way. What I ask most of my clients at the end of the session is what they would like to continue to work on until we meet again based on our conversation. That's the homework! I will also add things that I think might be helpful and ask them if this is something that they would like to consider as well. Sometimes I'll share additional resources (videos, worksheets, articles, book suggestions, social media posts, etc.) that I think could support the conversation we had.
I get that the word "homework" may spark some feelings of panic. What if I don't finish it? What if I don't understand the assignment when it's time? What if I change my mind and it's no longer something I want to focus on? This makes sense since this may bring up our past experiences in school. But therapy homework is different. If you don't do the homework, I encourage you to be honest with the therapist about this and why. It can actually provide information that is helpful in the process. Your therapist shouldn't shame you for this. More importantly, this information could show that you were just agreeing but not onboard to the assignment, it's hard to fit in your schedule, it's not a priority at this time, there are additional obstacles that need to be addressed, or negative thoughts that caused you to avoid it as a few examples of how this could be helpful.
Limit distractions during your session
You have a lot going on. I don't doubt it. It might be tempting to multitask especially when many people are doing therapy online. As a mother to a toddler, an entrepreneur, and just a person living in this hectic world, I feel you! I never feel that I have enough time. (I'm literally writing this as I cook myself dinner at 9pm lol.) Unfortunately, you're doing yourself a disservice by trying to do other things during your therapy session. This is your time. You deserve it... and you paid for it.
Tell your family, roommates, or coworkers that you're unavailable during that time for a very important phone call. Try not to do the session in a place that's going to have a lot of things going on around you if possible (like a coffee shop or park). Save the errands for after session. And close tabs and turn off notifications unless necessary for electronics.
This isn't always possible. I've even shown up to therapy with my baby because I needed to talk to my therapist and I didn't have a sitter. We gotta do what we gotta do. But just try your best to show up for you.
Things are good so you can skip a session or two, right? Well, that might not be the best idea. Meeting with your therapist when things are good can be helpful in diving deeper into behaviors, feelings, thoughts, relationships, and goals. It also leaves space to celebrate the wins!
I also know that people avoid sessions sometimes when things are feeling heavy as well. When things aren't so good, it might be the best time to talk. Your therapist may also be able to see in real time what your struggle looks like. If you are worried about the type of feedback that you might get, you can discuss this concern with your therapist so they can know what's happening in the relationship on your end.
But meeting less than biweekly really limits the amount of progress you two can do together and, as a result, may have you feeling that it's more of a catch up session or that you keep talking about the same things over and over. I know times are tough but it's probably best to find a therapist that works with your budget, schedule, and matches the approach you're seeking to make the most of it and see them weekly or biweekly. If your current therapist isn't that, it may be time to consider making a transition.
Interested in working with Marcelle? Great! Complete a request for a free consultation through her website at www.amplifyconnectiontherapy.com.