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How To Get The Most Out Of Counseling (On or Offline)

Sept. 8, 2020
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It can feel like social distancing has changed everything. Living remotely certainly comes with new challenges and awkward situations. But some things can work pretty much the same. Online therapy is one of them. In fact, online therapy has been around long before COVID-19, with surprising benefits like convenience or giving your therapist a better view of your life.

With so much happening right now, it’s a great time to talk it out with a therapist. If you’re new to therapy (in-person or online), here’s how to get the most out of your appointment:

Before your session:

Plan. Come to your session with a flexible agenda (because you never know what will come up once you start talking!). To do this, consider your therapy goals, the changes you’re ready to address, and anything going on that you’d like to process.  

In your session:

Respect your privacy. Confidentiality is part of what makes therapy so powerful. It’s your therapist’s job to use HIPAA-compliant technology and a confidential office space. You’re in charge of your environment. Find a private space free of distractions or interruptions for your session. It’s okay to venture outdoors for this. If you do, make sure your space is quiet and has adequate connection.

Address technical difficulties up front. Poor connection and distorted audio/visual will distract from the work you’re there to do.

Stay flexible. Change happens through a combination of digging deep and applying practical solutions to a present-day problem. This means that you might wear a problem-solving hat and collaborate with your therapist, talk about your childhood, or anything in between.

Acknowledge and accept discomfort. Discomfort is a normal part of the therapy process. If you find yourself wanting to avoid a topic or check out of the conversation, share that with your therapist. This can help you build a stronger working relationship and offers valuable insights and opportunities for growth.

Trust your gut. The discomfort you can feel in therapy is not the same as feeling abused, mistreated, traumatized, or otherwise harmed by the therapy process. Therapists follow an ethical code and maintain professional boundaries with their clients. If something your therapist asks you to do feels wrong, trust your instincts and walk away.


Outside of session:

Apply what you’ve learned. Most of your life happens outside the session, which means you’ll have work to do on your own. Jot down a few notes after your session to remember any insights you had, skills introduced, or new behaviors you wanted to try. Then, take action.

Keep a journal. Keep a journal to explore the topics you’ve discussed with your therapist and ideas for what you’d like to address in your upcoming appointment.

Be mindful about how you share with others. Sharing your insights from a therapy session with someone you trust can add momentum to the positive changes you’re making. However, therapy is also a private experience. Consider the boundaries you’d like to have in place about what goes on in therapy and in your life in general.

Take a break if you need to. There’s no rushing the process of personal development, and there’s no benefit in burning yourself out. If the pace feels too quick or you need more time to explore a new habit or thought pattern, let your therapist know. You can work together to decide on the best plan for you.