How To Have Success in Therapy

Megan McConnell, LCSW, EMDR on May 03, 2022 in Treatment Orientation

People often wonder when deciding if they should seek therapy whether it will actually work. The short answer is yes, it can work tremendously well and even be transformative if both therapist and client are doing their parts to make therapy successful. While we as therapists undoubtedly take on much of the responsibility for offering clients what they need to achieve the growth they desire, there are a few things that you as a client can also do to help ensure that you will have a meaningful and valuable experience in therapy. Keep reading for a few tips that will help maximize the likelihood of you getting what you need and want out of therapy.

1. Take the time to find the right fit. Many studies (source) have found that one of the most important factors in having a positive therapy outcome is the quality of the relationship between therapist and client. Not every therapist will be the right fit for you, and it is worthwhile to take your time and speak with multiple therapists until you find someone who makes you feel safe, heard, and understood. Ask questions of your potential therapist and pay attention to how their answers make you feel. Some of my favorite questions from potential clients include:

  • How will you help me?
  • What is your treatment approach?
  • What types of therapy do you practice?
  • What will a typical session be like?
  • How will we know therapy is working?

It can take some time to find a therapist who feels like the right fit for you, and it can get frustrating or discouraging if you have to go through a few options to get there. It will be worth it in the long run, however. You will be investing your time, emotional energy, and financial resources in your therapy, and you deserve to do so with a therapist who inspires trust and confidence for you.

2. Come to therapy with your goals in mind. Knowing what you want to work on or accomplish in therapy makes it significantly easier for your therapist to help you. Before your first therapy session, take some time to reflect on your goals for therapy, what you would like to see change or be different in your life as a result of therapy, what you would like to learn from therapy, etc. and come prepared ready to share this feedback directly with your therapist.

3. Be willing to get vulnerable and uncomfortable. It is a universal human tendency to gravitate away from that which is uncomfortable or scary, whether knowingly or unknowingly. The reality, however, is that all growth happens outside of our comfort zones, and you will only see the transformation you want if you go to those uncomfortable places. Be open, honest, and vulnerable with your therapist. They are not judging you and will be best equipped to help you if they know the real you. Be willing to try out some of your therapist’s suggestions even if they feel weird or anxiety-provoking. You will reap the benefits of whatever you put into your therapy process.

4. Give your therapist feedback. You know yourself best. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that your therapist must know something you don’t if they are having you talk about or work on something that feels irrelevant or unhelpful. A good therapist will welcome your feedback at any time in the therapy process. Let your therapist know what you like and what is helping, and also let them know if there is something you don’t like or that is not helping you. This will allow you and your therapist to build on what is working and more quickly put aside what is not so that you can see the progress you desire more quickly.

Therapy can be beneficial for just about anyone under the right conditions, and I hope that these tips help make that true for you.

Megan McConnell is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Denver, CO.

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