Stepping into a therapist's office for the first time takes courage. In fact, the decision can be so stressful that some people wait until they are in crisis and/or have exhausted all others ways of trying to solve their problems. But, once on the "couch," relief sets in as they realize that therapy is a worthwhile investment of time and money. Yet, often a client may unknowingly sabotage their own treatment.
Freud called this "resistance." While resistance does occur, I have found that some client's just don't understand how to make the most out of their therapy sessions. Even a well trained therapist can't detour a client from wasting valuable session time if that client is determined (consciously or unconsciously) to talk about everything other than the core issues that brought them to therapy in the first place.
Now it is normal for client's to veer off track from time to time and adjunct stories are often a relevant part of the therapeutic process. However, taking a mindful and focused approach to your therapy may help you resolve issues sooner and leave therapy with a higher degree of satisfaction. To get you on the road to productive psychotherapy check out these 5 things never to tell your shrink:
1. " Fix me!" Part of the healing process involves accountability. If you walk into a therapist's office expecting them to do all the work you will leave sorely disappointed. Of course, a therapist should take an active role in the therapy but as a client you need to take an equally active role. Take the approach that therapy is work and that you have a job to do.
2 Random stories: One of my most respected mentors told me that ". . . your clients will take you on a walk in the garden and show you all the flowers and do everything they can to avoid talking about why they are really there. In other words: Avoidance. Time is money, especially in therapy. And therapy is not cheap. Some shrinks charge upwards of $200 per 50 minute session. So, make every minute count! Catch yourself if you start to drift of topic. Your therapist may be very skilled at corralling you back but do you really want to spend your entire session having your shrink chase you down? If you notice yourself veering off tell your therapist that you are having a hard time staying focused. Sharing that with your therapist could lead to an insightful and meaningful session.
3. "You haven't helped me:" Now granted there are a few just plain old bad therapists out there but generally most therapists are well trained and put effort and skill into helping clients resolve their issues. If you have spent a lot of time in therapy with a competent therapist without noticing progress you may need to look in the mirror versus pointing a finger towards your shrink. Your therapist may be giving you wonderful tools but if you don't implement them they become meaningless. Remember your work doesn't stop when the 50 minutes are up. Also, if you do try to implement the tools but are unsuccessful, let your therapist know so the two of you can rework them.
4. "Let's have lunch:" A therapist/client relationship is unique. It can feel like a good friendship except that one friend never talks about themselves. If you were to socialize with your therapist it would taint your work together. Successful therapy depends on the therapist having a neutral stance and remaining a bit of an outsider in your social world. It doesn't mean that a therapist doesn't care about you. On the contrary, most are totally invested in you getting well that they would never jeopardize the therapy by crossing that line.
5. "Tell me about your problems:" A therapist must be careful what they self-disclose to their clients. If they share too much about themselves the therapy then becomes about the therapist and not the client. If you are dying to know personal information about your therapist there may be an underlying reason. And uncovering that reason may be valuable to the therapy. Have a discussion about your interest in knowing personal information about your therapist rather than the personal information itself. That way the work will stay focused on you.