It’s common to start off the new year with committing or re-committing to taking care of your mental health needs. For some people, this care is in the form of psychotherapy. January is a great month to kick this practice off for many reasons including that it helps to combat the “January Blues” and it’s in line with healthy new year resolutions.
If this is you, here’s a few tips on how to get the most out of therapy:
1. Find a therapist who really connects with you. Someone that you feel you can build a relationship with and trust. This might take some time. I tell my clients that our first three visits are critical for determining if we are a fit. I usually ask them for feedback at the 3rd visit to find out how they feel when they leave our sessions and what they typically think about between our visits. Advocating for what you need in a session is a vital part of this process and the best way to support your mental health care. If you’re not feeling like you’re getting what you need from therapy please bring this up with your therapist. Often, they can adjust their approach to help you or help you find someone else if they’re not meeting your needs
2. Work with your therapist to identify one small thing that you can do between sessions. In Dr. Nicole LaPera’s book, “How to Do the Work,”,” she makes the point that once-a-week therapy sessions are not enough to address the changes that may need to be made in your life. She advocates starting small, maybe with a commitment to drinking a glass of water each morning, to do the work between therapy sessions. Her book continues with loads of ideas for other “small things” that you can add as you develop these healthy habits. Therapy is only a short time each week, taking the things you’re learning outside of therapy is an important part of making therapy work for you.
**Interested in learning more about Dr. LaPera’s work? Check out her book here.
3. Try not to rush the process. It’s not uncommon for people to feel frustrated that change isn’t happening fast enough in the therapy room. Often the issue or issues that people want to focus on in therapy are pretty pressing and maybe even feel like a crisis. It takes time to unpack what’s going on and how it impacts all the parts of your mental and physical health. The unhealthy habits that may have emerged did not take hold overnight. The work to be done in therapy along with the practice you do between sessions helps to forge new pathways in your brain so that you can make decisions that feel connected and healthier for you. This process can be painful because you are letting go of habits or maybe even people who don’t support your desire for positive change; and this process usually takes time.. You are worth this hard work and investment in yourself.
Be gentle and kind to yourself in this process. Know that you are not alone in your desire to seek change and growth. My wish for us all is that we find peace and possibility in this new year. I hope you can take these three pieces of advice with you as you work toward your therapy goals.
-Elaine Cavazos, LCSW-S, PMH-C