You have decided to appoint a therapist to treat a potential psychological problem or suddenly ask for advice to deal with some kind of life difficulty. Now it's time to go to the first therapy session. Although he's excited to start the process, when he arrives at the office and is about to start talking, an emptiness fills his mind. Of course you understand the importance of talking to the therapist, however, you can't. So, learn now to open up to him, to clear the channels of communication, and to overcome the main barriers that impede the progress of therapy.
Part 1 of 3: Learning to Open Up
Step 1. Practice what you want to say in advance
The faster you get the toughest subjects out, the better. To make it easier, before leaving for the session, plan everything you want to say. Staying silent is a naturally learned mechanism to deal with difficulties, however, do not use it with the therapist.
- For example, start by practicing introducing yourself and saying the reason you made the appointment: “Hi, my name is Matthew. I booked this appointment because I'm having difficulties in adapting to the school”.
- The office is a safe place where you can open up without fear, knowing that you will find support. Also, over time, it becomes easier and easier to communicate with the therapist.
Step 2. Make it clear what your goal with therapy is
In the first or second session, tell what problem you want to treat, the area of life you are trying to improve, or whatever reason has brought you to the office.
Telling the therapist what your goals and expectations are will make it easier to create benchmarks to measure treatment progress. For example, start by saying something like this: "I want to start therapy to correct my socialization problems because I would like to have more friends."
Step 3. Share feelings and thoughts openly
Don't save anything. Say everything you're feeling, even what you don't think is so relevant. Withholding information can be detrimental to your treatment. Failure to say something intentionally, out of shame or embarrassment, will make progress difficult. By not fully opening up to the therapist, the treatment will not be effective.
The therapist can only help you if you are completely open and honest with him. So, try to express yourself in this way: “I feel like a total failure, because while everyone goes out for a walk with friends, I'm alone at home”
Step 4. View the therapist as an intimate confidant
Remember that everything said in an office is secret and will never be shared without the patient's consent. Nothing you say will be met with criticism or judgment unless your goal is to hurt yourself or others.
The relationship between a therapist and his patient is special and comforting, so there is no reason to think that he will suddenly leave you
Part 2 of 3: Unlocking the Communication Channels
Step 1. Find the right therapist for your needs
Look for a professional who treats people who have problems similar to yours. This way, you will be enlisting the help of someone who has seen your problems many, many times before.
- For example, there are experts on depression, binge eating, anxiety, etc.
- Try to take several factors into consideration when making your choice, for example: the therapist's experience of treating your problem, the style of therapy he uses, and the level of rapport between you during the first session. After a few sessions, analyze if you are feeling better and if you are getting along well with the therapist.
- Consult with some therapists to learn about different styles and personalities. Don't be discouraged if you don't find the perfect professional for your needs right at the first appointment.
Step 2. Ask the therapist to explain the process carefully
Ask what methods and techniques will be used during therapy. Don't be afraid to question, even if the question seems to be personal.
- For example, if you are concerned about certain personal choices of the therapist, openly ask in this way: “Are you religious? For me it's important to be consulting with a person who believes in God”. You may not receive a straight answer, but the professional will explain the reason for the dropout and communicate your limits.
- Ask if there are any billing rules that may apply to your treatment, such as cancellation fees or session extensions.
Step 3. Keep an open mind
Be aware that therapy is tailored for each patient, so the techniques used may vary as well as the duration of treatment. Even if some of the therapist's suggestions seem useless, heed them, as you may be surprised by the results.
- Even if it is necessary to get out of your comfort zone, encourage yourself to put into practice what the therapist asks for. One time or another, you'll end up experiencing the evolution you've longed for.
- If the therapist leaves homework to do between one session and the next, take them seriously and do your best to fulfill them, as they are designed to improve certain personal skills that will help you progress through your treatment.
Step 4. Let the thoughts flow in a journal
Write down all the anxieties, frustrations, fears, feelings and whatever else comes to mind. You will feel free when you see in the real world everything that was stuck in your throat.
Bring the diary to sessions. Reading the records to the therapist can help the conversation flow better
Part 3 of 3: Breaking the Barriers that Stop Progress
Step 1. Be clearer when you feel you are not being fully understood
Give the therapist a second chance by explaining in more detail or approaching the issue at hand from another perspective. When you feel the professional is misinterpreting what you are saying, don't give up easily.
Say what you're feeling and try to come to terms with what would be the best way to explain something. Start like this: “I'm sorry, you don't understand me. Let me explain better.”
Step 2. Apply what you have learned in the sessions on a daily basis
Put into practice everything that the treatment has taught. Therapy works much better when the teachings are not just applied within the office. By taking them into the real world, it will be possible to explore areas of life that once seemed frightening.
For example, if the therapist suggested putting the new skills to use at school, go ahead without fear. Think about the strategies you've learned and put them into practice. Talk to someone, join a group, etc
Step 3. Exit therapy if you need to
See another therapist if you are not comfortable with the current one or have not had any improvement. Be aware that you may have to go through several professionals before you find the one that is right for you.
- No matter the reason – maybe the therapist's way of talking doesn't please you or maybe your intuition is warning you about something – if you're not happy with the treatment, find another one.
- Be sure to let the therapist know why you are stopping treatment. A friendly closure will be good for both of you, and suddenly he might even recommend a professional who is more suited to your needs.
Step 4. Learn when additional help is needed
Therapy is sufficient in most cases, however, if symptoms are interfering with the patient's daily life, additional treatment will be necessary. Tell your therapist that you are not coping with your symptoms. He will then assess the need to refer you to a psychiatrist.