How to maximize your therapy appointments
As a therapist, I see one major factor that contributes to the success or the failure of my clients. This factor is a client’s activity level in therapy and it’s a great indicator of how successful counseling will be for them. I like to call it “Active vs Passive Counseling.” In this blog, you will learn professional tips for maximizing your activity level in therapy.
What is “Active Counseling?”
“Active Counseling” is the practice of taking the counseling session mindset out of the therapy room and applying it to your real life. These clients think of the counseling room as an extension their real life. My clients that practice “Active Counseling” are thinking about what we talked about in therapy and applying that therapeutic “lens” to all areas of their lives. They’ll continue the therapeutic conversation in their head or share their therapeutic process with the loved ones in their lives.
What is “Passive Counseling?”
Client’s that practice “Passive Counseling” isolate the experience from the rest of their life. They may work hard in the therapy room, but that’s where the healing stops. Often, to only be picked back up the following week for an hour. My clients that practice “Passive Counseling” frequently believe that they’ll hit their therapeutic goals if they simply show up for an hour and answer any questions that the therapist asks. Unfortunately, it rarely works this way.
Tips for Practicing “Active Counseling”
Have a topic
My “Active Counseling” clients typically come in with an agenda or topic that they would like to discuss. These clients are excited to update me on their therapeutic progress (outside of therapy). Or, they’re eager to explore the barriers that slowed them from such progress.
“Passive Counseling” clients don’t come with an agenda. Instead they “do their time” on the therapy couch for an hour, passively answering any questions.
Ask for homework
It’s a good sign when a client asks for “homework” at the end of a session. This interest in actively doing therapeutic work outside of the therapy room is a great trait. “Active Counseling” clients try to typically do some or all of their “homework” during the time outside of therapy.
“Passive Counseling” clients either don’t ask for “homework” or they just don’t do it. Whether it’s taking 5 intentional deeps breaths per day or writing a journal entry, they regularly forget or were “too busy.” While I can definitely empathize with being forgetful and being too busy, therapeutic work outside of sessions needs to be made a priority.
A few of my “Active Counseling” clients come in with notes that they’ve been making throughout the week. As a therapist, I am thrilled when clients make therapeutic observations throughout the week. This means that they have embraced connecting therapy to their outside lives. Other “Active Counseling” clients take notes on their phone or on paper during our session. They want to remember and reflect later on insights made in therapy. While this is not necessary, I believe it is a great idea.
Read and listen
Whether it’s an entire book on a therapeutic subject of interest, or a simple blog post, my “Active Counseling” clients continue to get therapeutic knowledge (a.k.a “psychoeducation”) when they’re outside of the therapy room. Ask your therapist about a book they could recommend you read, or do some research yourself. For relationship help, I’d recommend starting with John Gottman’s blog here. Another book I’ve recently suggested to clients is “You Are a Badass, How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.” It’s an entertaining, no nonsense, guide to living your best life.
Podcasts are another great resource for people. There are loads of great podcasts out there, done by some of the best therapists in the entire world. We all get this for free! Take advantage and soak in the knowledge. Car rides to/from work are a great place to get a little daily dose of therapy gold. I’d recommend listening to Brene Brown’s podcast and The Science of Happiness podcast.Psychology Today also recommends these “5 podcasts to broaden your mind.”
Talk about therapy
Be proud that you’re going to therapy. It shows others that you’re investing in yourself and your health. Don’t be afraid to talk to trusted friends or family about your therapeutic process. Growing a good support system is another important factor in successful therapeutic work. You’re more likely to practice “Active Counseling” if you’re able to talk about your therapeutic process with people in your life, instead of keeping it detached (and often secret).
If you’re in the Winston-Salem, NC area and are interested in getting started in the therapeutic process, Christopher John Counseling can help. Click here to schedule a free consultation to see if therapy with Chris Koniarczyk, LCMHC, LPC, LAC would be a good fit. Taking that next step towards feeling better feels so good, start today!!