Making The Most Out of Your Therapy Appointments
It's been almost a year since I began therapy for my anxiety and depression. So far, it's been a huge help for alleviating my negative thinking and straightening out some of my twisted perspectives on things. Just being able to sit down and speak with someone who not only offers compassion, but also has an understanding of these issues, has been very eye opening.
That being said, it took me a while before I was able to appreciate this. My first couple of appointments, I knew were necessary. There was something going on that didn't feel right, something that I had never experienced before. They were okay; it was good to vent out those new feelings. But I had yet to learn that there are many different approaches to therapy; both from the doctor and from the patient. I realized that it wasn't as simple as walking into a room and sitting on a couch for an hour. Just because it's called a treatment, doesn't mean it wouldn't take some serious effort on my part.
With that in mind, I've collected some tips on making the most out of therapy appointments; things to keep in mind while you're working through those issues.
You Need to See the Benefit
Plain and simple. Don’t go to therapy as a chore. Mowing the lawn is a chore. Going to therapy is improving your way of thinking and searching for alternate perspectives, something that will benefit your entire life. Mowing the lawn just makes the backyard look nice...until you have to do it again. Some appointments will feel life changing; others may feel like a waste of time and money. But I promise, if you are seeking help, it's not a waste of anything. It’s almost like starting an exercise routine. The first few workouts will get you really motivated, but then you see no difference in your physique and think, “what’s the point of all this?” Stick with it and know that it’s helping you in the long run.
I know it’s tough. Perhaps there's a hefty amount of embarrassment that clings to your problems. But think about it: why? You went to the appointment for a reason, right? There's nothing embarrassing about that. Loathing your problems is embarrassing. Investigating them is courageous.
Say your car has been sputtering and you take it to the mechanic. You wouldn't hesitate when he asks about the noises it's been making, would you? It’s the same thing. You have gone to an expert for help and they need as much detail as possible – from the painful to the embarrassing. Just remember, you’re the only judge in the courtroom.
Learn To Enjoy Speaking These Thoughts Out Loud
I really did not see benefit from my appointments until I actually looked forward to them. If you’re like me, it takes a bit of time to get there. There were so many things that I held back during my first few appointments that I was aching to shoot out of my yapper. But I was scared. Scared of what? Who the heck knows? It’s not like I was going to tell my deepest darkest problems and be greeted with something like “Oh...that’s weird” or “Really? Holy cow!”
You can vent out feelings to anyone, or anything for that matter. The great thing about doing this with a therapist is that 1. You don’t feel like you are burdening them; this is what they do for a living. 2. They offer you feedback based not only on compassion, but a scientific or neurological reason of what actually makes you feel or react that way.
What About You?
If you can recall your very first therapy appointment, how was it?
Don't Fear Negative Thoughts or Emotions. Be Curious.
The initial reaction is to become scared or to panic with onsets of negative thinking or feelings of sadness. You shouldn’t blame yourself. Unlike other emotions, these seem to be uncontrollable, which makes fear seem like a natural reaction to have. Try your best to think more “why am I feeling this?” rather than “oh no” or “there's something wrong with me.” Having questions like this rather than fears or insecurities will give your therapist more to work with and make you more confident in these issues. Try to look at your depression or anxiety as a puzzle rather than a flaw.
Find The Method That Suits You The Most
My first therapist was very old school – like Freudian old school. I went to two appointments and discovered that I really needed to find someone else. His methods weren’t bad or unpractical, just not what I was searching for. To be fair, I wasn’t exactly sure of what I was searching for at that point. He would sit there and listen with a few nods here and there. I had no problem with that. But when it came to the point when I had nothing else really to say, it was just dead silence. He would just sit there waiting for me to speak again.
Like I said, this isn’t a bad method for therapy; it’s just not the one that was working the best for me. I discovered that I wanted feedback for these problems that I was throwing out. Yes, the venting feels great every now and then, but some of those problems don’t end the moment they leave my mouth. My problem is that I have a jaded perspective on these things, which would drive my anxiety and depression out of control.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to seek a new therapist. If you’re comfortable speaking with your current therapist, try mentioning exactly what you want and see how that works out.
The best therapist for you doesn't necessarily need four or five stars on a doctor rating website. Yes, you should seek out those men and women that you feel have the right qualifications, but stick with the one that you feel the most comfortable sitting with for an hour; the one that you feel obligated to speak with.
What About You?
Which method of therapy works for you the most?
There have been so many instances when something specific had been bothering me for most of the week, but I forget to mention it when I sit down with my therapist. You might think: “Well if you forgot to mention it, it probably wasn’t affecting you that much.”
Sometimes that’s true. Things that had been flooding my mind can evaporate through therapy, without even mentioning them. But other times, it’s not that easy. I can be good for a couple of days before that pesky feeling or thought comes back to the surface. Then I have to deal with until my next appointment.
Keep a small pad of paper with you – or use your phone – and write down anything and everything that irritates, upsets, angers or confuses you. The day before your appointment, rank these thoughts or feelings in order of how severe they are; chances are you won’t be able to get to all of them in an hour-long appointment. Having a list like this prepares you more for your appointments and gives you a goal for each one.
I hope this helps you all in some way. The most important thing to remember: no matter how great your therapist is, you have full control of how your appointments will benefit you. Speak up and dig deep to the things that trouble you. Walk into every appointment with a goal, whether it is to work through a problem or simply mention it to your therapist. Be as specific as possible, ask questions and be confident with these issues. Stick with it and trust that you'll be helping yourself in the long run. Good luck with your treatment!