3 Tips for Successful Therapy (Part 1)
Updated: Mar 11, 2019
“Successful” therapy means different things for different people. However you define it, I’ve noticed from personal experience that there are some common themes for successful therapy.
Finding the right therapist is like trying to find someone you would like to spend time with and have meaningful conversations. Not everyone will fit that shoe. Unlike what popular culture might lead you to believe, therapists have different personalities, styles, approaches, and life experiences. We aren’t all “hippie" therapists, or the stern “Professor” types. Find one that feels right for you and be open with your therapist when it doesn’t feel right. A good therapist will be attuned to what you need but they also can’t read minds - they sometimes need the feedback. When your therapist is attuned to you and you feel safe to also provide feedback then the relationship can grow.
Read more about the importance of a therapeutic alliance and feedback here.
Having grit means having the perseverance and determination to overcome obstacles to reach a goal. A good therapist has grit. They know that therapy can be fraught with obstacles and challenges, but like a good team member encouraging you through an obstacle course, they’re not going to drop you in the mud pit when things get tough. Their job is to guide you through these challenges and encourage you to make it through on your own. They might have to give you a leg up and push you through when needed but they don’t give up on you. In fact, you might feel slightly annoyed at their persistence and determination.
You, as the client, also need to have the grit to stay in therapy. For change to occur you need to have the perseverance to keep going to therapy when things get raw and real. The therapist can only guide you through these obstacles, they can’t challenge or overcome them for you. You need to do the hard work. Another way to think about it is that therapy is very similar to going to the gym or your favourite exercise class. Most people don’t expect instant results the first few times they exercise and they certainly don’t expect their trainer to do the exercise for them. Why would you expect instant results in therapy? Positive changes are seen only after consistency and commitment in spite of internal and external barriers.
The role of the therapist is to create a safe space for you and mirror your pace in the hope that you might feel courageous enough to be vulnerable. This might mean acknowledging the raw emotions, the circling thoughts, or past traumas. If you’re not ready yet - that’s okay - just expect your therapist to gently help you move through your protective shield. A good therapist will only meet you where you are in your emotional journey.