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Good Therapy: How to Maximize Your Therapy Experience

Amanda Anguish K'dee Elsen
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In this episode, Amanda Anguish (LMFT) and Dr. K'dee Elsen (Psychologist) are boiling down thousands of hours of counseling experience to share how you can get the most out of your therapy experience.


  • September 6, 2021
    5:00 PM
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Free sharing permitted under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0 (US) license.

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Hi, I'm dr. Daniel by an. I'm amanda. I'm jonathan and I'm dr. Nelson and together we are bringing people a group of wheel, practicing mental health professionals. Podcast is a one stop shop for all your mental health. Give you the tools to be depression and anxiety. One episode at a time. Are you ready? Let's go. Welcome to the brain people podcast. I'm amanda anguish and marriage license, marriage, and family therapist. And I'm here with my co host doctor elson. I'm a clinical take on it. Yeah. And we're here talking about how to get the most out of your therapy sessions. We'll do a little precursor to that to maybe. But we want to talk about this because so often, you know, especially if you've never been to therapy, you don't even know one what to expect. What am I supposed to do? How do I find a therapist? What, what is all about this? And maybe we watch too many movies and TV shows, and we think they're all going to be just like that. So we want to talk about that today. So katie, what is one of the things, one of the top things that people should be keeping in mind when they look for a therapist? First of all, well I think the thing that comes to mind is to recognize that they have a lot more control than what they recognize. So most people they go and they find the therapist and they think that they're stuck. You know, when he comes to dating, when it comes to looking for a job, right? We do a screening process. We have control, we do, we do, you mean I didn't just marry the 1st person that came along? I thought you were going to say, you know, I just accepted the 1st job that came along. Like, do you really want to be here? Me and I love my job. You're like dr. Brenda, you're listening to this. Do you have control, right. Well, when it comes to therapy, people think that they are just stuck with the 1st therapist. So one of the key aspects is knowing that you're in control and that you can interview, you can, you know the same way that they ask you questions. You can ask your therapist question to see if it's a good fit. Yes and not all of my clients have stayed after the 1st session. I shouldn't probably admit that I've just been a 100 percent successful and all of keeping them in for me and I'll be back there. Thank you sir. Even I need a 3rd. No, but I I like to tell my clients therapy is like a hair dresser. You know, if you don't like the way they cut your hair, then obviously you might want to go to somebody else, but it's always good to keep in mind. If you're stuck in the eighty's hairstyle, maybe that's not a good one, cuz I think the eighty's are back right now. If you're stuck in the ninety's hairstyle and your therapist isn't like pushing you a little bit, then maybe you also want to find a new therapist. Point as well, so don't exit too soon. Are you exiting because it's the therapist or you exiting because the therapist is highlighting things and you know, that actually needs to be addressed for sure. What about you? What would your opinion beyond kind of what people have to look for things to consider before they start therapy? I think one of the, one of the things that I like to encourage people with is that not all therapy is the same. Some, as we see one way of therapy being done on t v or movies like I had said before, but that's not every therapist has kind of their own way of doing things. And so you won't naturally feel like a fit with every person. And that can be for religious reasons, that can be for lifestyle reasons, but it can also be for the type of therapy. Some therapies are more directive. Some pit therapies are more passive for the therapist sit back and there's a lot of, you know, just reflecting back what they hear, but they don't really push. Sure they, they don't do that kind of thing. So if you have a sense of what kind of issue you're dealing with, then sometimes it's good to find somebody who really works with that issue to versus just opening yourself up to every single person. And I know just a plug for psychology today, Not that every therapist is on there, but it's a website that people can go on there and kind of look for different things that therapist might, you know, excel in or be an expert in. And that sort of thing can be helpful to hear. It's really a process re and I think people don't spend enough time in that process. Which of you think about when we're answering the question, like how to make the most out of therapy is if you start off therapy on the wrong side, or if you started off being insecure or unsure about your therapist. And that can really just, you know, impact the rest of the future therapy journey. Yes. And, and that's not to say, you know, some people, you know, you might live in a small town somewhere where you don't have a ton of options. But then there's also, you know, if you live in the city, you might have a plethora of options too. But even nowadays because of cov id, were a, were able to do online sessions and there's a lot of that option out there to where you do it. I like to encourage people to actually go in and sit with her therapist. She tend to get more out of it. Yeah. And I know we might spend a future podcasting. You talking more in depth about this process of looking for a therapist and but thinking bought about more that middle section of when they are here in therapy. And what are some things that they can start, you know, working on to make sure that they get the most out of the experience. I think one of the biggest things is to, you know, sometimes people go to therapy because somebody else's forcing them to go or because somebody suggested what happened I wish. But I think the one of the best things is to find your reason for being there. Why am I here? What can I get out of this? Or what do I hope to get out of this? And then be able to convey that to your therapist. This is really what I want to get out. Now your therapist might have something else that they hear and see during the course of conversation. But if you have a mode of ation for being there, that's a huge part in getting the most out of your therapy. I would just want to spend the rest of the time talking about that because so I was doing some research on actually looking at the factors that for therapists i was thinking ok, how can I be a better therapist and I was doing the research and looking at, you know, both therapy factors, but then also, you know, treatment factors. And then I came across his article that was saying, you know, the biggest predictor of success and therapy is actually the client. And specifically how committed they are. I mean, I don't have to work so hard anymore. You don't like those other things matter, right? You definitely does matter the modality, the treatment, so forth. But and I, sir, reflecting on like my own experience in the therapy room with my client, and I realize the ones that are most successful are those who are a 150 percent committed. They, they do their homework grade. They are fully engaged, that they are so hungry for a change. I even have clients who bring a notebook and are taking notes in their notebook is or therapy, no book. It's not for anything else. It's just the stuff I get out of this time. And they take notes and they'll stop me and say, can you repeat that again? I really I want to make sure I get that now. Wow. Yes. Some of them are. Are they the apologies? I'm so sorry. No, please. You can stop me. Make me say it all over again. If you need me to, I'm happy to do that. If you're, if you're motivated to use. Exactly. So I think, you know, if people get nothing of this podcast or they get one thing I should say would be, are you committed, right? To get the most out of therapy is to be fully committed, not one foot and one foot out. But being fully committed, they may not be, that doesn't mean that you think that it's going to be easy or that it's going to, you have certain expectations, but just saying I am showing up and the therapist should show up and then together as a teamwork approach you'd be able to have more successful outcomes. And just from the therapist perspective, hearing my client say, you know, this is really hard for me. I, I don't even want to be here some times, but I've decided that this is that important to me, man. That is one of the best things that I can hear. And I don't even mind if it takes them twice as long to get to where they want to be. If I see, you know that they're working with an M and it increases my motivation to really find the things that help them. Now I'm going to do that anyway, but it's really, it just makes a really great symbiotic relationship. When my clients motivated, i was thinking of another thing to, you know, with, you know, when we go into play a sport or something, the coach always sort of rubs the team up. We can do that even before we go into our therapy session. Like hey, I know this is going to be not the easiest thing, but I'm committed to it and I'm going to go in there and I'm going to give it everything that I've got. That's a good way to get motivated to go in there. And I'll tell people this, you know, sometimes the motivation isn't there, right? That's why commitment is so important because it's, I'm going to show up even when I don't feel like going, I'm going to do my homework even when I don't feel like it, right. Just, you know, taking the steps out of commitment to yourself that I want to make these changes, right? So even if you don't feel motivated still show up. And that's, that's interesting that you said that because that reminded me of something that I, I think is important to as a client to recognize what are some of those reasons I may not want to be here. And one of those is something we call transference and transference can be, you know, sometimes we think we don't like our therapist or we think we love our therapist or whatever. But one of the reasons for that could be that maybe our therapist reminds us of somebody in our life. And especially, i mean it's awesome when it's a good person. It's not so awesome when it's a difficult person in our life. But even then to recognise will maybe I'm having difficulty with this person because I need to work through this issue and I'm willing to stay committed even when it's not easy because of person reminds me of somebody. And sometimes that's when the best stuff comes out because for whatever reason you got the person you needed to work with. Because that's really what's going to help you. So don't be afraid. If some stuff comes up, maybe it's the sound of their voice. Maybe it's a mannerism or the way they look and who they remind you of. But that's something that can help you get the most out of your therapy session to. I've had clients that say, you know, I have a hard time with you because you remind me of so and so That's not my favorite thing to hear. But man, not you just opened up something that we can work with now, and let's go for it. So don't be afraid to hide that issue from your therapist. Maybe your therapist hasn't picked up on it yet, but even bring it out to your therapist and it'll tell you that your therapist is safe to when you bring that stuff out and you get the kind of response that you'd like. So that brings up another key component of how to make the most is to be open and honest. And I actually, i'll have a little spiel on the 1st, you know, intake session that I have with them. And I'll say one of the things I value is complete openness and honesty. And they look at me a little strangely. It's therapy like of course, that you'd be surprised how many people are not open or honest and I tell them if at any point like we don't die well and you're like, I'm looking for another therapist. Tell me if I need to help you find another therapist, i'll help you. I'm not going be offended or tell me if there's transference and when you remind me of somebody or Yeah, tell me when I give you some homework and you hated it, I ask you and you're like all it's fine. Openness and honesty in therapy is what's going to help you. And then you can also expect that from your therapist for them to be open, honest. And that will help dramatically with your progress that, that almost makes me laugh because I think of my grandma, she used to have somebody come in and clean the house when she wasn't physically able to do it. But she'd go through and try to clean everything up before the housekeeper came. Wow, grandma, you're paying for somebody to clean the house, but you're cleaning it up. Well, I don't want them to see how messy the house is. That's the point of coming to therapy. Let your therapists see how messy your house is. If you clean things up or you pretend like they don't exist, then you don't get to work on them either. And we're ready for that kind of stuff. We're ready to hear all of it. The worst, the best, whatever you name it. That's what helps us help you Is when you share that with us, but don't, don't act like we're gonna think less of you or we're going to judge you for it. We're hoping we've most of us have her just about everything. So you're probably not gonna surprise us. It's not going to look too messy and will be able to handle it. That's what we're trained to do. So I don't know how many times I've had a client who says, I'm so sorry, or I was going to cancel today because, you know, I just been doing, i've just been horrible. And you know, I don't have anything good to tell you. And I'm like, you know, people go to a hospital when they're sick, not when they're well. So why would you expect to come to therapy only when you're doing well. Yeah, and I said it's wonderful when you're doing great. Yeah. But also it's wonderful when you're not doing so well so that we can work through that and learn how to better kind of resilience idea of getting back up about how many times you fall, but how many times are getting back up. And in some times to like say in couples counseling, maybe if you don't want to say that thing in front of your spouse because you're afraid of what might happen. You can even schedule a session where use separate for a while and the therapist can talk with each person in the relationship. If you're afraid to say something in front of the person. So that's another option too, if you're afraid to share something because, oh well this might hurt my kid if I said in front of them or they may not want to live with me anymore. If I say this in front of them, you can always say to the therapist, no, I'd feel more comfortable sharing this with you without them. And we can work through that too. So open and honesty is very, very human for her progress. I think another thing is to be honest about the process, so be patient. I think a lot of times you're expecting 1st, 2nd, 3rd session to be cured. But that would be nice, right? I would love that service, but it's a journey. That's why I tell people, therapies a journey. So be patient that can be up and down. Sometimes it gets harder before it gets better. But be patient the way they can get the most set of therapies just being patient. I like to tell my clients, consider how long it took you to get here. We're not going to get through this in the 1st session if it took you that long to get here. So let's you know, we can walk back. It might be a little slower than you want, but give yourself some grace in that amount of time. Don't don't hurry the process and sometimes it's not getting the end. It's so important. It's the process of going, wow, I didn't realize I had the stamina to go through this for this long. And now I am happy where I am, but it was really realizing what I'm capable. I'm capable of talking about hard stuff. I'm. I'm capable of handling things when they don't work out for me initially, the way that I want them to. And the therapy process is actually a part of that whole experience of learning what you're capable of to you. I think the next thing that I would like my clients to consider to, to get the most out of their therapy sessions is to do the homework. A 100 percent. Yes. Please do the homework. It's great to sit in your therapy session for an hour, but we're there. Work really makes a difference is when you take one little bit of information from the therapy session in practice it when you're at home or if your therapist is the kind of therapist that gives handouts or work sheets or that kind of homework to say, you know, what I'm going to not just commit to being in the therapy session, but I'm going to commit to doing the work that it takes outside of the therapy session. It might be, i've got to go on a walk. I said I was going to give a 15 minute walk just to get that, you know, and that all those feel good chemicals going and stuff like that. Those endorphins. I said I was going to do it, so I'm going to do it. And then if you want to take somebody with you, we didn't say you couldn't do it at home. I don't think we did. But who knows if their therapist it, but do the homework, you will get so much more. Any of my clients that do the homework, they get better faster. So if you're frustrated that it's not going faster, consider, well, what parts of this have I not committed to that maybe would have gotten me there at that. Are you saying that one hour a week or one hour every 2 weeks or however often of the session is not enough to change a whole lifetime? That's exactly what he said. Nothing. There's not magical dust or anything in that therapy room that in an hour just has this perfect combination. I always tell my clients if I could magically just resolve all of your problems, i would be a lot wealthier and they'd be a lot more famous and I'm not. But the important thing is that we're willing to do the work, but that's where the dope amine comes from. Anytime you do work, you get a nice little head of dopa mean, and so even that is part of the process as well too. I tell my clients that too bad i say, you know, even if I could, if I had that magic want, I wouldn't use it. Yeah. Because it wouldn't teach them, you know, how to be resilient, how to, you know, learn from their mistakes, how to grow. Right? Because in adversity there is growth. So maybe we do have magic ones, we're just not using It's better for you. If I don't use my magic wand. So maybe we should summarize some of the main points that we've made so far of to be committed to be 100 percent committed. What under under present, committed to both being there and doing the work. Ah, me doing a little bit of homework going into it and stuff. I mean there's plenty of websites, i'm sure where you can find what to do before you go to therapy. But be willing, don't, don't, you know, we don't all like every single food we try, we may not like, or we don't make everybody our best friend and not the same way with therapy to we me find a better fit with somebody else. We may have a better outcome with a certain type of therapy that, you know, one therapist might do versus another therapist and stuff. So it doesn't, it's not personal to us. I want to find the best therapist for my client and. And then being open and honest, both about the process of finding a therapist in therapy itself. But while you're open and honest, you can expect right there to be better outcomes. Absolutely. And even being honest about, I don't remember everything or I don't know what I'm here for, I'm just, I'm just here and I'm committed. We accept that too. So this is been a really helpful conversation, I think, to a lot of people because that's one of the biggest questions or statements i get from my clients is I don't know what to expect. What am I supposed to do? How often should I come? That's another one we might throw in there real quick. Your therapist will help you decide how often therapy is necessary for you or who would be helpful for you. It could be once a week. It could be a couple times a week if, if it needs to be more intense, it could be every other week. But typically as we're doing better and better, you know, our clients are doing better and better. They can taper off to, I have clients where I see them once a month just to keep them on track. You know, they want to stay with their goals and they want to, but they don't try to trust themselves quite yet to just be on their own. So that's okay to and I think these are all good things that people can take with them to their therapy sessions. And maybe we'll have a lot more people out there go into therapy because we demystified all of the concerns and questions they had about going or maybe last because they're like, oh no, I think committed. That's true. But that's not a bad thing to be committed. And stuff I remember even has just showing up of commitment. Yeah. And I tell my clients to, you know, I'm like, home Depot, or lowes or any home improvement store. I have the tools, i can teach you how to use them, but I can't do the work for you. And so just something to keep in mind as you go and do your therapy. And hopefully, you know, this is sort of made it easier to even consider it for you or a family member or somebody. Maybe you can share the news. So if you only take one thing away from today's show, remember that if mental illness is the whole person problem, then it must have a whole person. And I'm amanda anguish, and I'm dr. Katie elson. And you've been listening to the brain gaz. Ah, thanks for listening to hear more episodes, find us on social media or supportive financially. The brain people podcast dot com. I.


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