How to Get the Most Out of Therapy

how to get the most out of therapy, how to maximize therapy, how to not waste time in therapy

How to Get the Most Out of Therapy

We want to provide you with a list of ways to help you utilize the most out of your therapy sessions. This is not a comprehensive guide, but we hope it will help you find a way for you to continue your progress in therapy and make sure you are doing all you can for your self-growth. You are doing great on your journey to be the best you can be, and we want to help you along your journey as much as possible.

Understanding Therapy’s Purpose:

  • Recognize therapy as a journey for personal growth and healing: Your mental health therapy journey is for you and you alone. Everyone is on their own path of healing. The purpose of therapy is to help you find your authentic self.
  • Accept that progress is a gradual process, not immediate: Your progress should be observed by a desire and effort toward that desire. A wise man told me once that your success should not be measured by your actual accomplishments but rather by your desire and your effort toward the goal. The outcome is usually decided by other factors such as people or life circumstances. Thus, being patient with yourself is a way for you to optimize therapy sessions for yourself. Don’t let yourself get in your own way.

Setting Clear Goals:

  • Define what you want to achieve through therapy: Being upfront and honest about yourself, your goals, and how you want to approach therapy is a good way to not waste time and utilize therapy to your advantage. Before you step into the door of your therapist’s office, take some time to consider the key points you want help with. The main question to ask yourself when considering may be, “What triggers do I have in life?” Of course, this question is only a starting point and may revolve around people, places, or things.
  • Regularly review and adjust goals with your therapist: As you progress through therapy, your goals will need to be altered. The hope is that your goals will change entirely due to your previous goal having been accomplished.

Preparing for Sessions:

  • Allocate time before each session for mental preparation: It can help to check mentally, on paper or on a screen in journal format. Writing or thinking freely about yourself and how you feel can help. Depending on where you are in your journey of therapy, you may want to focus on a specific topic in session, and self-reflection beforehand can be helpful.
  • Create a comfortable and private space for therapy: This may be up to your therapist, but if you are meeting at your house or a different location you may consider a quiet area to talk. Also, if your therapist has a setup that is distracting or making you uncomfortable, you have a right to speak up. Your therapist is working for you, not the other way around; keep in mind your uncomfortable feelings may be important to your healing. Under rare circumstances, your therapist may ask you to work through the feelings that are making you uncomfortable.

Active Participation:

  • Engage openly and honestly in each session: Share your thoughts and feelings candidly. It’s important to be honest with your therapist. If you feel you are not ready to share information, then don’t. However, consider your reluctance to speak about your feelings and thoughts. Are you by chance, struggling to face yourself with those feelings and thoughts? In some cases, it may not be your therapist you have a problem with; rather, you may feel uncomfortable with yourself. This is a great starting point to have with your therapist.

Emotional Honesty:

  • Be truthful about your emotions and experiences: Mental health therapy is about emotions. One of the best ways to maximize the benefits of therapy is to allow yourself to feel. Some of us are not able to feel our emotions so easily, while others access them all too well. Discussing these issues and concerns with your therapist is a starting point. Yet, your feelings are an integral part of therapy and your progress in therapy. Recognize everyone feels their emotions in a different way. Take the time to understand how you feel; your emotions will begin to help you move through and process events now and in the past.
  • Understand that vulnerability is a strength in therapy: Experiencing and accessing your emotions requires a level of vulnerability. Something to consider is if you are struggling to feel your feelings with yourself because your therapist is in the room. Of course, the answer could be both. Being vulnerable with yourself and with others at appropriate levels is helpful to progress.

Effective Communication:

  • Ask questions and seek clarifications when needed: If you are ever confused about what your therapist is saying about homework or another topic. Communicate to help your therapist better help you.

Journaling and Reflection:

  • Keep a therapy journal for thoughts and progress tracking: Reflect on your feelings and experiences between sessions. Journal about your feelings and thoughts from week to week. It’s important for your therapist to understand how you are doing emotionally from week to week. Your progress is not always available to be measured in numbers or units. Sometimes, a report from you can help your therapist understand if you are being pushed too hard or too little in therapy sessions.

Implementing Therapist’s Advice:

  • Apply the strategies and exercises suggested by your therapist: Your therapist may give you homework or suggestions on how to cope from week to week as you are working in therapy. Do everything you can to apply them. If you are given homework, getting the most out of therapy is doing your homework.
  • Discuss the effectiveness of these methods in follow-up sessions: Your therapist will give you homework to work on. When you do your homework, communicate with your therapist if it was helpful or not.

Embracing Discomfort:

  • Recognize that discomfort can be part of growth: Truly, being vulnerable and stretching your bubble can allow you to grow and even help you recognize strengths or weaknesses you didn’t have. A rock only becomes smooth by tumbling.

Building a Support System:

  • Seek support from friends, family, or support groups: We all agree! Your therapist is wonderful. However, having support outside of the office is important in many ways. Your therapist cannot always be there. As you are on your journey, it is best to surround yourself with people who care. If this is a struggle for you, specifically bring this up with your therapist so you can find ways to better find and maintain friendships.

Monitoring Progress:

  • Celebrate small victories and acknowledge growth: If you are struggling, see if you have made progress. Ask your therapist. If you are struggling, then inform and consult with your therapist. We understand how difficult it can be to live a life with emotional struggles.

Staying Committed:

  • Remain consistent with appointments and practices: To me, weekly therapy appointments are like taking a prescribed pill every day. It can be less effective if you are not taking it every week. Get the most out of therapy by taking your weekly dose.

Feedback and Evaluation:

  • Provide feedback on your therapy experience: Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your sessions. Speak with your therapist and take a mental note. If your therapist is not working at your pace or is trying to work too fast, this is an error for your therapist. They should work where you are and help guide you where you want to be. If you feel stagnant or overwhelmed, speak to your therapist openly about it. Don’t just ghost the poor individual.

Planning for Post-Therapy:

  • Develop strategies for maintaining progress after therapy: Discuss coping mechanisms for future challenges with your therapist. In some cases, strategies to stay out of addictive behaviors or to help you cope with upcoming intense moments can be vital. Your road will continue, and take note; in the future, you may need to return to therapy. There should not be any associated shame in this concept.

We hope you were able to learn something new about how to approach therapy now and in the future. Remember to be patient with yourself and allow time for you to heal on your journey to a more authentic you. Every therapist is different, and not every therapist is a good fit for you. It can take time to find the right person for you. Strive always to get the most out of your therapy.


Professionally Reviewed by:
Abraham Hudson, Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CMHC)
Graduated from Johns Hopkins University, School of Education, May 2018
Active Mental Health Therapist with Trauma, Anxiety, & Depression since 2018