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  • Grant Koenig, LCSW

How to Have Successful Therapy Sessions: When Collaborative Insight Meets Tangible Action

I have heard all too often in my years in practice that a person seeking out therapy sessions may be hesitant to start again after a bad experience with a previous therapist, so I thought it might be helpful to unpack some tips on how to have successful sessions while answering a few helpful questions such as: How can I find a therapist that’s the right fit for me? What makes therapy successful or unsuccessful? What has caused so many people to feel like therapy isn’t what they want it to be?

In my experience, therapy sessions are most helpful when a person feels understood and accepted by their therapist and conversations are directed toward gaining insight and awareness to utilize toward actionable steps for improving mental health. Exploring these specifics before you start sessions with a therapist may help you to feel less frustrated and more satisfied with therapy overall.

How do I know it’s the right fit?

There are many factors in determining whether a specific therapist is the right fit for what you’re looking for, but a few are key in knowing what is right for you. First there needs to be a level of genuine connection with the person that you’re talking with. This could be in the form of a shared style of communicating (fast-paced, analytical, assertive, passive), desired qualities (caring, supportive, empathetic, assertive, open-minded, thoughtful), shared values/background (spiritual ideology, gender identity, ethnic background), or therapeutic framework (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, Mindfulness-Based, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy). It is not necessary to find a therapist that fits every single criteria that you’re looking for and it is also not necessary to find someone exactly like you. It can be quite helpful to find some common ground that will allow you to feel connected and open to sharing your thoughts and feelings freely, but the specifics that you connect on are entirely up to you and what you’re comfortable with.

Finding a person you connect with is a fair first step, but there is a bit more to look into to make sure you’re finding the right fit for you. One of these things is trying to find someone who will help you to meet whatever goals you have for therapy sessions. This is also very dependent on each individual and should be thought through before starting therapy if possible. I have had plenty of people reach out that have had very specific goals and plans and others that did not. Part of my first conversation with a person is trying to understand what they’re going through and what they are looking to gain from sessions. This can range from trying to stop or cut back on a certain behavior (alcohol use, addiction, lying, gambling), trying to feel better by overcoming mental/emotional hurdles (anxiety, depression, self esteem, stress or anger management), or trying to gain more insight about self with the intent to improve overall mental health by understanding more about one’s own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If you know what you’re looking to gain from sessions then you can communicate that to a potential therapist to make sure you’re on the same page and have more productive sessions together.

What is insight and why does it matter?

Once you have found a therapist that you connect with and align with in terms of goals and takeaways from sessions together, you can focus on how to make the most of each conversation. One aspect of sessions that I find to be extremely important and impactful is gaining insight. In gaining insight, a person is able to identify and understand the deeper roots of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This is important because it allows them to build skills to navigate their mental and emotional processes, which creates a higher level of confidence and self-control.

In sessions, I find it helpful to collaborate with each individual in a way that they can express themselves openly and freely as the experts of their lives and I can share potential connections, deeper understandings of complex mental and emotional processing, and different points of view as an expert in mental health. As we talk through these things together, individuals are able to start making these deeper connections in their daily lives which will give them more opportunities to change and make progress toward improving their mental health.

Take Action

One final tip in making the most of your therapy sessions is focusing on learning new skills and strategies to use to work through thoughts and feelings in a healthier way. Some of these skills would be cognitive reframing, mindfulness, challenging unrealistic thoughts, positive self talk, and exploring healthy coping strategies. As this is discussed and worked through in sessions, you will be able to practice and understand these concepts on a deeper level. This will lead you to think about these things more often and will inevitably help you to find day to day application of these new strategies. As you pair this increased insight with practice of new mental and emotional processing strategies, you will start to see progress in a much quicker way than you anticipated while leading to long lasting results. This is due to the fact that you have built a solid foundation of awareness and understanding and tools to work through things differently that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Hopefully with these tips, you will be equipped to get more from any therapy sessions you have and make strides toward your mental health goals.

If you are currently looking to start therapy but don’t know where to start, please feel free to reach out and I would be happy to help. At My Couch Online Therapy, our focus is on helping each person to reach their mental health goals through building insight, skills, and control with the help of a compassionate, experienced therapist. If this is something you would be interested in pursuing you can contact us and we will respond to you within 24 hours.

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