You can’t make a mistake when you are in psychotherapy. You bring yourself to the sessions. You can’t possibly be wrong about you. Whatever you feel or think is part of who you are. What you remember or forget and your enthusiasm or reluctance are expressions of who you are in the moment. They indicate the forces working within your psyche. You may not understand the reasons behind your experience, but reasons exist.
Psychotherapy offers a safe and supportive space for individuals to explore their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Whether you are seeking therapy to address specific concerns or simply aiming for personal growth and self-discovery, this transformative process requires your participation.
Please remember, your healing journey is your own. The only requirement, once you have established that you qualify for your therapist’s practice, is to show up. The rest will unfold in time. However, if you want some basic guidelines to help you maximize the benefits of psychotherapy read on.
1. Be Timely for Appointments:
To make the most of your psychotherapy sessions, it's crucial to be punctual and arrive on time. Being punctual demonstrates respect for yourself, your therapist, and the therapeutic process. Arriving ahead of time allows you to transition calmly into the session, giving you the opportunity to clear your mind and focus on your goals for the day. It is also an ongoing practice of setting and honoring boundaries.
2. Pay Bills on Time:
While discussing finances may initially seem unrelated to therapy itself, fulfilling your financial commitments in a timely manner is also part of recognizing and honoring boundaries. This also contributes to developing your reliability, honesty, sense of responsibility, committment and independence.
3. Respect the Process:
Psychotherapy is a unique and personal journey that requires time and patience. Recognize that change takes time and that progress may not always be linear. Trust the process, even on the days when it feels challenging. By embracing both the highs and lows, you allow yourself the space to grow and develop at your own pace. Often a client who came in with an eating disorder expresses surprise because the eating disorder is no longer an issue yet we talked very little about it. The therapeutic process can seem irrelevant and mysterious as we look to meaning and increased strength in your life. Yet, while making progress in this realm, the eating disorder fades. It’s no longer needed to protect the person in life.
4. Bring Your Pain, Sorrow, Anger, Fear, Joy, Humiliation, and More:
One of the most significant advantages of psychotherapy is the opportunity to express and explore a wide range of emotions freely. Don't shy away from sharing your deepest and most authentic feelings. Your therapist is there to provide a non-judgmental space, allowing you to process and understand these emotions in a healthier and more constructive way. If you feel embarrassed or ashamed of what you are experiencing, you learn to take a necessary risk with courage to reveal what’s going on. And that is an important therapeutic process.
5. Be Honest:
Honesty plays a pivotal role in the therapeutic process. Openly share your thoughts, experiences, and reactions with your therapist. Authenticity fosters trust and helps them understand your unique perspective. Remember, your therapist is there to support you, and their guidance is often more effective when they have a clear understanding of your truth. Sometimes you can’t tell the truth because you don’t know it. You may tell untruths because you believe them. That’s part of the process. Eventually your work with your therapist will untangle false beliefs about yourself and others, especially about yourself.
6. Bring Your Dreams and Aspirations:
Your dreams and aspirations are as important as your struggles. Share your goals, ambitions, and dreams with your therapist. They can help you identify the steps needed to achieve them and work towards a more fulfilling life. By integrating your dreams into therapy, you'll find yourself discovering what your own unconscious is trying to tell you. Dreams try to provoke your conscious mind into seeing or working on something, or knowing something you are wary about knowing.
7. Bring Your Bewilderment:
Sometimes, we may feel puzzled or confused about our own emotions or behaviors. Don't hesitate to bring your bewilderment into psychotherapy. Your therapist can help you navigate through complex emotions and provide insights that may help you understand yourself better. Together, you'll untangle those inner knots and make meaning out of confusion. Often, simply sitting together sharing your experience without judgment will bring unexpected clarity to your situation.
8. Practice Self-Care Between Sessions:
Therapy is not solely confined to the therapist's office. To enhance the effectiveness of your sessions, make sure to prioritize self-care outside of therapy. Engage in activities that promote relaxation, self-reflection, and personal growth. Whether it's journaling, meditation, exercising, or spending time with creative people who practice self-care, take care of yourself in a way that aligns with your needs.
Embarking on a journey of psychotherapy is an empowering step towards self-discovery, personal growth, and healing. By following these eight tips, you can use your own energies to make your therapy more effective. Remember to be timely, respectful, honest, and open to exploring a wide range of emotions. Stay committed to the process and accept your challenges and triumphs along the way. Through this transformative experience, you'll heal, gain new awareness and internal strength to cope well with your losses and gains in life. You will embrace new opportunities with wisdom and more courage than you believed you had.
Joanna Poppink, MFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD and adult development.
She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, UT. Author of Book:Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder
Appointments are virtual.
For a free telephone consultation e-mail her at