If you're struggling or stuck, counseling may be a good way to get a new perspective, move forward positively and protect your well-being. And if you're living with a mental health condition, seeing a therapist may be a key part of your treatment plan.
Are you in talk therapy or considering it? These tips can help you make the most of it:
1. Set goals
Be sure your therapist knows what you hope to achieve. For example, perhaps you want to:
Find ways to cope with strong emotions, such as grief
Change behaviors that are making you unhappy
Build healthier relationships
Better manage stress, anxiety or depression
Explore or navigate a major life change
2. Discuss a timeline
It will depend on your needs and goals. Ask your therapist how you'll work together on your goals and how long you might need counseling services. Some issues are chronic or take longer than others to work through. But in other cases, people might feel that they're making progress after just a few sessions.
3. Be honest
Sometimes, talking about personal problems can be uncomfortable. But the more open you are about your true feelings and experiences, the more your counselor can help.
4. Take notes during each session
Reading them over can remind you of what you discussed, including what action steps you should try.
5. Do your homework
For example, your counselor might suggest you write in a journal or change your behavior in a certain way. If you don't get specific tips, ask what you can do outside of therapy to move toward your goals.
6. Welcome new ways
Often, therapy means exploring approaches that feel outside your comfort zone. But trying new strategies for managing or responding to situations is the only way to see if they work. If you give up too quickly, you might miss out on something that really helps.
7. Speak up
Your counselor wants your therapy to succeed — and collaboration is a key to that. So don't hesitate to say if you:
Think a session didn't go well
Don’t feel you're making progress
Want to focus on a new goal
Are considering stopping your therapy
When you're frank, it gives your counselor a chance to think about the best ways to help you.
It's also vital that you develop trust and a good connection with your therapist. So if you don't feel comfortable or you don't feel like you're being heard, it may not be a good fit — and you may benefit from making a change.