Counseling can be an incredibly valuable resource for individuals seeking support, guidance, and personal growth… but unfortunately, I often hear from friends and clients that when they tried therapy, they didn’t find it helpful. To be clear, to truly get the most out of counseling, you need to make sure you find a therapist who is a good fit. There are many different counseling styles, and all therapists have different personalities. The number one factor in therapeutic success is the therapeutic relationship – i.e. the relationship between you and your therapist.

Once you’ve found a therapist you feel comfortable with and established a relationship, you can maximize the benefits of your time together.

1. Set clear goals:
Before your first session, consider what you want to achieve through counseling. Setting clear and specific goals will provide direction for both you and your counselor, helping you track your progress along the way.

2. Be open and honest:
Effective counseling requires open and honest communication. To get the most out of your sessions, share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences without reservation. Your counselor can only help you to the extent that you’re willing to be transparent.

3. Actively participate:
Counseling is a collaborative process. Engage actively during your sessions by asking questions, seeking clarification, and providing feedback. Remember that your counselor is there to guide you, but your active participation is crucial.

4. Keep a journal:
Maintaining a journal can be a valuable tool to help you reflect on your thoughts, emotions, and experiences between sessions. This can provide valuable insights and assist in tracking your progress. I always welcome clients to bring their journal with them, either to remember what they wanted to focus on or to record some notes to carry into daily life.

5. Remember that progress takes time:
Counseling is not a quick fix, and it may take time to see substantial changes. Be patient and realistic about the progress you can make. Celebrate even small victories and understand that growth often involves setbacks.

6. Be consistent:
Consistency is key to making progress in counseling. Attend your sessions regularly, and stick to the treatment plan you and your counselor have developed.

7. Address concerns with your counselor:
If you have concerns about the counseling process, your counselor’s approach, or any other aspect of your sessions, don’t hesitate to address them. Open communication can lead to adjustments that enhance your experience.

8. Apply what you learn:
Ultimately, the success of counseling depends on how well you apply what you’ve learned in your daily life. Implement the strategies, coping mechanisms, and insights gained from your sessions to create positive changes in your life.

Counseling can be a transformative and healing journey, but getting the most out of it requires active participation and a commitment to personal growth. It’s not always meant to be easy (though I wish it were!) and it will require some vulnerability. The great thing about counseling is that you get a space to practice that vulnerability. I don’t expect you to show up with it, but we’ll need it over time to make progress. These tips will help you develop that vulnerability and get as much as possible from your financial and time investment.

You can also check out my post about why you might not get the most out of counseling, or what to do when counseling isn’t working for you.