How to Maximize Your Psychotherapy Sessions

How long do people spend in psychotherapy?

Not long enough…

According to the American Journal of Psychiatry (July 2003), studies show that the majority of clients in
psychotherapy have a relatively small number of therapy sessions. The average is between five and eight sessions.

Counseling is costly on many levels- it’s an expenditure of your time, money, and emotional energy. Whether you attend weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, the tips below will serve as a guide for taking advantage of the information gained in sessions to extend beyond the therapy hour.

Therapy is like any endeavor in life; the more effort you exert, the more productive the intervention, and the better you will feel. ‘Talk therapy’ is a misnomer, of sorts– it requires a lot more that just talk. It’s a highly interactive and action-oriented process, and you’re in the driver’s seat. You are the expert on your life, after all.

How to save time and money on your psychotherapy intervention:

1. Before each session, make a list of issues you would like to discuss. This is useful to organize your thoughts, and prioritize the areas of concern that are causing the most stress.

2. Be mindful of your most pervasive negative thoughts and feelings experienced during the week, including when, where, and with whom they most frequently occur. For many, these automatic and unhealthy “scripts” tend to be so prevalent you may be unaware of their existence.

3. Bring a notepad to jot down ideas, exercises, or referral sources suggested by your therapist. Sometimes there’s a lot going on in session and with so many different ideas floating around your mind, you may not remember some of the important points discussed.

4. Homework is a good thing. A 50-minute session can go by extremely fast, and most likely, there were topics both of you did not have time to address. Homework is a way of augmenting the hard work done in session, and most importantly, it’s a way of keeping you connected to your mind and body.

5. Take care of yourself. Small lifestyle changes can significantly increase emotional and physical well-being. Through exercise, (including yoga and meditation), relaxation and visualization exercises, reducing intake of caffeinated beverages, alcohol and drugs, and increasing sleep hours, your mood and energy levels should improve.

6. If you are taking psychotropic medications (or any other medicines), communicate with your prescribing physician as to results, side effects, and overall compliance. Sometimes medicine dosages, types, and frequencies need to be adjusted before the desired outcome is achieved.

7. If you disagree with your therapist, or experience a particularly strong emotional reaction to something s/he said during the previous session, let your feelings be known. While therapists are trained to observe many different forms of communication, we are not mind readers. It is very empowering and important for both of us to speak openly and authentically.

8. Be prepared to work hard and feel uncomfortable. Therapy is often the first place where very disturbing, heart-wrenching, and traumatic memories and events are acknowledged. Be honest with your therapist about the material you feel comfortable working on, yet be open enough to trust that the professional sitting across from you is attuned and experienced enough that s/he may suggest slowing down or increasing the pace and direction of the intervention.

9. Make a conscious effort to adopt and accept truthfulness as a way of life. We all use denial as a defense mechanism from time to time, but one can only deny reality for so long. You have already made a vital and possibly life-altering decision to undergo therapy, so give yourself the opportunity to see your relationships and circumstances in a more honest light.

10. Laugh. A sense of humor never hurts any situation.

11. ACTION is where it’s at (of course, doing nothing is always an option, but since you’re at step 11 – this is likely not you;)). Whether you entered therapy because of a devastating romantic break-up, chronic interpersonal problems, because your parents told you to, or you desire more self-confidence; positive change will come when you vow to actively adopt different ways of thinking, acting, and behaving.

And I’m right beside you helping to guide the way.

*Bonus post: click here for more information on why we all need therapy.


The best of luck with your psychotherapy intervention,


(Photo credit: Sumanghi via Flickr)

About Linda Esposito

Hi there! I'm an Anxiety Saboteur and the creator of the soon-to-be retired If you want to join me on Wired for Happy click this link to subscribe for details.

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