Hello everybody, welcome to episode 47 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take your questions on life and answer them on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino, and today we’ve got a question on deck about therapy and how to get the most out of it.
Therapy is sure a hot topic these days with all the emphasis on mental health. It’s a big step to enter therapy and finally concede to the fact that you need help, but for as great as it can be, for some people, it still doesn’t help the way they envision it. That’s the case for today’s asker, so let’s check out today’s question and see what they’ve got to say…
QUESTION: “I have been seeing different therapists off and on for many years now. None have ever stuck, and it never seemed like I was getting the magic out of it that people claim to get. I’m starting to think it’s a problem with me. What should I be bringing to therapy in order to get the most out of it?”
Ok. Just want to start by saying good job recognizing that it is most likely a “you” problem. Don’t feel bad about that; we all have our flaws and therapy can be a difficult process for a lot of people, even though it can also be very effective. The important thing is you’re here now and you’re looking to do something about it so you hopefully CAN get that magic out of it.
How to Make Therapy Successful
There are definitely several key elements necessary to make therapy as successful a journey as possible, so we’ll talk about them here today, and you can decipher whether or not you’ve violated any of these little rules in therapy sessions past.
First things first: you have to believe in therapy or be receptive to it. Therapy can be powerful enough sometimes to allow people huge breakthroughs even if they’re a little trepidatious about the whole thing, but that definitely is not something I’d gamble with.
If you’re in therapy out of obligation, somehow, then you’re less likely to get anything out of it. But being receptive to therapy is a blanket guideline really, so let’s consider the other little guidelines cuddling underneath the blanket.
Find the Right Therapist
It’s hard to believe or be invested in therapy if you’re not with the right therapist. Many therapists are very intelligent and gifted people, but that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily compatible with everyone.
In order for therapy to work, you need to be with a therapist that you trust. I’ve talked to a surprisingly high amount of people who told me they were dissatisfied with their therapists and left them.
A therapist’s relational qualities are five to ten times more powerful than the techniques employed to improve the mental or emotional health of clients.
Some therapists are very communicative and engaging. Others are much more stoic and are more prone to repeat what you say so you can hear it coming from someone else, as opposed to offering a lot of new feedback. Different strokes for different folks.
The thing is that you really can’t make compatibility into a formula. Like anything in life, you’ll go into therapy with preconceived notions, and sometimes those can be really hard to shake. And even if you feel you’re being silly or ridiculous about it, if it’s hard to shake, it’s hard to shake, and that’s that. Maybe you won’t jive with a therapist because they look like your ex, or because they speak with the same accent as your abusive father. Whatever. It’s not ideal for us to cast judgments on people for such trivial things that have nothing to do with them and everything to with us, but if you’re having a hard time getting past that, you’re only wasting time with that therapist.
Be Clear on Why You're in Therapy
It’s also hard to be invested in therapy if there’s any ambiguity as to why you’re there. If you’re there maybe because someone else is making you go, or you’re still uncertain if you want to commit fully to getting help, therapy isn’t going to do much.
Therapy, like anything, is most effective when it’s goals and purpose driven. You must be clear and concise about what you want out of therapy. Otherwise, you’re likely to hold back and not communicate everything that’s necessary to communicate.
This gets especially tricky because therapy can still feel fun under these circumstances.
For example, a lot of people that are a little vague going into therapy can fall into friendships with their therapists. Yes, you need to trust your therapist, and this can go hand in hand with that, but if, during your therapy sessions, you’re spending more of the time rambling on about irrelevant stories or gossiping about different people, your therapist won’t be able to serve you fully and you’ll mistake this lighthearted attitude you have towards them for you opening up in a way that’s really necessary.
Show Up Regularly
Finally, therapy requires regular attendance. And I’ll tell you, this is where I’ve gone wrong in the past myself. The more serious the subject matter is, the more time it will likely take to make a full recovery, and don’t pretend like anyone’s subject matter isn’t serious to them if they’ve entered therapy for it.
Yes therapy is expensive, yes you have a lot on your plate, but you have to stick with therapy long enough to get real results. Some people leave after 5 sessions if they’re frustrated about not feeling any different, some people leave after 5 sessions if they feel good two weeks in a row.
Just as your struggle has more than 5 weeks attached to it, so does your recovery. Just as your struggle comes with ups and downs, so does your recovery.
The desperation to recover can cause us to make snap decisions in therapy — wanting to stop wasting time if results don’t come fast enough, and pleading and insisting that the pain is over if results seem to be coming quickly.
This is part of your journey though therapy, and your thoughts about therapy and your healing are just as important to disclose to your therapists as the thoughts that brought you into their office in the first place.
Recommendation time, people. There’s a wonderful psychotherapist and relationship coach whose work I really enjoy. His name is Alan Robarge.
I highly recommend checking him out. Not only does he offer great insight, but he talks about the therapeutic process a lot and I believe he has a free PDF on his site somewhere about how and why therapy can be unsuccessful.
And for those of you wondering what psychotherapy is, it's talk therapy to help people with a range of mental illnesses and emotional related difficulties.
So have a look at Alan Robarge if today’s episode was interesting to you. It was sure interesting to me.
Thanks for listening, thanks for submitting this question. As you might know by now, anyone and everyone is encouraged to email us their questions so we can help you out on the show as we did today. You can email your questions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking forward to hearing what you have to say, looking forward to next episode, and I hope to see you all there. Until then, everybody.