Making the Most of Your Therapy
Therapy is an opportunity to work on things in your life, and to find more satisfying and rewarding ways of living. Research shows that therapy can be very helpful for many people, and that most clients leave counselling or psychotherapy feeling much better than when they started. However, research also shows that the more clients know about therapy before they start, and the more they put into it, the more they are likely to get out of it. For this reason, we have provided the following information to tell you about the therapy we offer, and how you can make it as helpful as possible for you.
How Therapy is Conducted
At Insight Counselling, we try to be as flexible as possible around the practical arrangements for therapy, and so we offer therapy services face-to-face and online. Some people attend for a one-hour face-to-face session at the same time each week, or opt to meet less often, or for shorter sessions. For other people, this kind of arrangement may not fit with their lifestyle or their emotional needs, and they may feel more comfortable choosing our online service.
Please feel free to discuss with your therapist if you want. There may be constraints on what the therapist can offer, in terms of their schedule, the availability of therapy rooms, or the demand on the online service – but they will do their best to accommodate your needs.
If you are ready to get started, click here or on the Referral Process tab on the left.
A Therapy “Menu”
At Insight Counselling, there are many different ways in which we can help you. We
like to think of ourselves as providing you with a therapy ‘menu’, so that you can decide, with our support, what you would most like to work on. Some of the issues that clients often choose to focus on are:
- talking through an issue in order to make sense of what has happened, and to put things in perspective;
- making sense of a specific problematic event that sticks in your mind;
- problem-solving, planning and decision-making;
- changing behaviour;
- negotiating a life transition or developmental crisis;
- dealing with difficult feelings and emotions;
- finding, analysing and acting on information;
- undoing self-criticism and enhancing self-care;
- dealing with difficult or painful relationships.
Often, clients find it most helpful to work on these issues on a step-by-step basis. One of the ways that therapy may help is that your therapist can work with you to disentangle the various strands of the problem, and help you to decide what needs to be dealt with first.
A flexible, personalised approach to helping you
The therapy that we offer is based on the belief that people who come for therapy are experts on their own lives (even if they don’t feel they are), who have lots of potentially good ideas about how to deal with their problems. One of the main roles of a counsellor, as we see it, is to help the person to make best use of their experience and understanding.
This means that our integrative and pluralistic approach to therapy is to try to be as flexible as possible in responding to your needs. What we find (this is backed up by research) is that different people are helped in different ways. For instance, what some people find most helpful in their therapy is to express their feelings – sadness, anger, fearfulness. Other people find it more helpful to take a rational approach to their problems, and use the therapy to ‘think things through’. People can shift, over the course of therapy, from finding one kind of activity helpful,
to then preferring to work in a different way with their therapist.
Flexibility can also involve the choice of therapist. Some people may only feel comfortable talking to a man, or a woman. If you start with one therapist, and then start to feel – for whatever reason – that this is not the right person for you, then it is fine to mention this to your therapist. They will then do their best to find you another therapist who would be better for you.
Flexibility also applies to the number of therapy sessions that you receive. Some people come for one or two sessions, and find that this is enough to put them ‘on the right track’. Other people attend therapy for a couple of months. What is important is to do what is best for you personally. One of the options is what we call intermittent therapy – if you have some sessions and then want to stop, you can always come back at any time in the future (see self-referral) and pick up where you left off.
The following sections look at some ways you can prepare yourself to get the most benefit from the therapy you receive.
1. Thinking about what you want from therapy
It is important for your counsellor to know what it is that you want to achieve in therapy – what your goals are. Your goals are a kind of ‘contract’ or agreement between you and your counsellor, which specify what you want from him or her. If you go to a furniture store to buy a new sofa, then the visit will have failed if you come home with a new bed, or a carpet, no matter how attractive these objects might be. It is the same in therapy – a good outcome of therapy depends on getting what you came for.
At the start of therapy, most people find it hard to be clear about exactly what it is that they want to achieve. They have maybe only a vague sense of what they hope to get from the therapy. This is perfectly normal – your counsellor will encourage you to talk about your goals, and gradually they will become clearer. It is fine to have lots of goals, or just one goal. It is fine for your goals to change. What is important is to let your counsellor know what it is that you want from therapy.
One of the ways that you can get the most out of therapy is to spend some time on your own thinking about your goals, before the first session, and between sessions. It can be useful to write your goals on a piece of paper, so you don’t forget them. It is useful to keep your therapist updated if your goals change.
2. Thinking about what you think will be most helpful for you
As mentioned earlier, there are big differences between people in respect of what they find helpful in therapy. There is little point in the counsellor trying to work with you to tackle a problem in a particular way if you think that the approach being taken is a waste of time! It is very useful, therefore, if you can think about what you believe might work best for you, and share these ideas with your counsellor. You can do this by thinking back to times when you have had problems before, and identifying what was helpful or not helpful for you these times. You might also think about what you have heard from friends or family members, or seen on the TV, about how therapy can help. For instance, some people find it useful to be taught how to behave in different ways, others find it useful to ‘blow off steam’ and, for others, what is most useful is to try to solve problems in practical ways. Whatever you think is most helpful to you, your counsellor will try to help you with this.
3. Identifying your own personal strengths and resources
The therapy you are being offered is not interested in diagnosing or labelling you. Instead, your counsellor will assume that you possess a range of skills, experiences, relationships and abilities that can be used to overcome your present problems. Part of the job of the counsellor is to help you to identify your existing strengths and resources, and work out how you can apply them in your current situation. For example:
- Jessica was depressed and isolated – she had always been a musical person, and with the support of her therapist joined a choir, where she met other people, and learned to feel better about herself;
- Jerry was a student who became very anxious before making a presentation in class – he had always been physically active, and realised that if he went and had a workout in the gym before making a presentation, he was able to cope much better.
It is useful if you can keep a list of your strengths and resources, and share this information with the counsellor.
4. Being active between therapy sessions
Between therapy sessions, your counsellor reviews what happened in the last sessions, and thinks about what they might do in the next sessions to take things forward. It is valuable if you do the same. Sometimes it can be helpful to work with your counsellor to agree ‘homework’, or ‘experiments’, or ‘projects’ that you could complete between sessions. Even if this doesn’t happen, it is still useful for you to think about what has come up in the therapy, whether you are getting what you need, how the therapy can be improved, and so on. It can be hard to remember these thoughts, and one option to consider is keeping a therapy diary, where you write about what the therapy has meant to you.
5. Giving feedback to your therapist
Effectively tailoring the therapy to your specific needs is only possible if you are willing to give honest feedback to your counsellor. Your counsellor will also ask you for feedback and comments during the therapy session, or may invite you to take some time to review overall progress after approximately every six sessions. When giving feedback, it is really important that you are as honest and detailed as you can be. It may be painful for your counsellor to learn that you think that he asks too many questions (or not enough questions), or whatever. But ultimately, your counsellor genuinely wants to help you, and does not want you to pretend that everything is OK when it isn’t. You should regard the feedback that you give to your counsellor as a gift – you are giving them an opportunity to learn how to be better at their job.
If you are worried about anything – please ask
Finally, there may be other questions that have not been covered, that would make a difference to your ability to make effective use of our therapy. If you have any further questions, please ask your counsellor. If for any reason it is an issue that you do not want to mention to your counsellor, you can contact a member of the Insight Counselling clinical management team. (Adapted from Cooper, M. and McLeod, J. (2011). Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy. London: Sage)