How to be Successful in Therapy
Ernest S. Schmidt, LCSW
When people come to therapy they are often unsure of what to expect and sometimes ask about how to get the most out of our meetings. There are several important things that you can do to increase your chances for success in therapy.
I define “successful therapy” as achieving one’s desired results in the most comfortable and efficient way possible. This article will briefly lay out my recommendations on how clients can be successful in therapy.
This is one of the most important aspects to successful therapy. When clients are forthright about their current struggles and fully disclose what has been going on, it makes the therapy move that much faster. Although it may seem obvious to be truthful to your counselor, it is often harder than you think. Depending on your situation, feelings of shame and guilt may get in the way of your ability to be open and honest. If clients allow these feelings to prevent them from sharing freely, it limits their chances to move forward and to make substantial progress
To tell a total stranger about how you are feeling, whether it be sadness, anxiety, nervousness, shame, guilt etc. can be difficult and somewhat painful. It takes internal strength and courage to be vulnerable in this way, as it puts trust in someone else’s hands. Although most clients reveal themselves slowly as they build trust with their counselor, it can still be anxiety provoking. Courage is also needed when it comes to speaking directly to your therapist about your progress. This can feel quite unnerving, but good therapists should always be open to feedback. Clients that avoid this type of discussion may end up feeling resentful or prematurely end their therapy. When clients are unhappy with a certain aspect of the therapy and they have the courage to share this, it can substantially accelerate the progress and improve their treatment. This courage can tremendously benefit the client in reaching their goals and in my experience clearly improves the results of their therapy.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines diligence as an: Earnest and persistent application to an undertaking; a steady effort. I see this motivation and willingness to follow through as a very important aspect to successful therapy.
Although I understand clients will have various levels of enthusiasm when they first enter therapy, clients who end up being the most successful have the greatest diligence. They are active in our face-to-face meetings, and they work to remember and utilize the skills that are discussed. Some take notes as we speak, where others are fully engaged by asking questions and intently discussing the concepts. To be successful in therapy, one needs to practice the skills that are discussed not only during the therapy meetings, but throughout the week. The most successful are also those who consistently complete their therapy “homework” assignments. Without this follow through, commitment, and diligence, the therapy is much less effective and slower in achieving the desired results.
Quality therapy can produce amazing results and significantly change your life for the better. This can be done in a relatively short amount of time when you find the right therapist and when you do what you can to contribute to the process. By understanding the importance of honesty, courage, and diligence and working to emulate these qualities, your chances for successful therapy will undoubtedly increase.
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