How do I get the most out of my session with a Clinical Psychologist?

Melissa Ree Blog

Going to see a clinical psychologist involves a significant investment of time, money, and energy, so it’s understandable that you will want to get the most out of these appointments. Therefore, we’ve put together some key pointers below that will help you do just that… 
 
Be Prepared
First and foremost, understand that the vast majority of the work and change that happens in therapy actually occurs between the treatment sessions. Think of your appointments as a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly check in with a coach or trainer – there are 168 hours in a week, and an average appointment is 50 minutes. Therefore, you need to be doing most of the hard yards between the sessions, so that when you get to your appointment time, you can spend this limited time touching base with the psychologist about things you tried, what went well  and what you may have struggled with, problem solving any trouble spots, and then learning some new skills to take away. Before your session, take some time to summarise the work you have been doing since the last session, and write down any queries or issues you may want to raise.
 
Agenda Setting
At the start of most sessions, your psychologist will set a bit of an ‘agenda’ for the session, to make sure there’s time to address everything of relevance during your appointment. Be sure to let the psychologist know right at the start of the session if there are any particularly important issues that you want to make time to discuss during the session. That way, they will be able to allocate the time within the session most effectively.
 
Do Your Homework
Typically, one of the first things that will happen in a session is that the psychologist will ask to review the between-session tasks you were working on since your last appointment. It really helps to make sure that you have not only done these tasks, but have also brought along any relevant worksheets, forms etc. so that you don’t have to rely on your memory. If you haven’t been able to complete these tasks for any reason (you ran out of time or you got stuck and didn’t know how to do the task), please just let your psychologist know. It’s definitely better to come along to the appointment anyway, rather than skip the session because you’re concerned that you haven’t finished your homework! The psychologist is there to help you problem solve any difficulties like this, whether they relate to practical barriers or issues with motivation. In working with your psychologist, honesty is always the best policy.
 
Team Mentality
Some people mistakenly believe that when they go to see a psychologist, that person is going enact a treatment upon them; but this is not the case. When seeing a psychologist, you and the psychologist are a team, working together discover how you can reach your goals and  improve how you feel. Your psychologist may well teach you certain skills and strategies, but the effectiveness of the therapy lies in your willingness to actively participate in the process.
 
Be Willing to Get Uncomfortable
It’s important to remember that working with a psychologist often involves facing up to upsetting or anxiety provoking thoughts, situations, memories, and emotions. Much of the progress we make in therapy comes from approaching, rather than avoiding, the things that make us uncomfortable. So remember to go into your sessions with the perspective that this is going to be like a real workout for your mind – you’re there to change, grow, improve yourself, and overcome your difficulties. If you went to the gym and didn’t engage in you wouldn’t expect to experience any change. Therapy is just the same! If you’re willing the put in the hard yards, you will certainly reap the rewards. And remember of course that your psychologist will be there to help you right through the journey. 
 
Be Open and Honest: we’re here to help, not to judge.
Your psychologist’s capacity to assist you is limited by the information that you give them. Sometimes people feel afraid or ashamed to open up and be truly honest in their sessions because they feel embarrassed, ashamed, or anxious. It’s important to remember the psychology is a helping profession, and it is your psychologist’s job to listen to the difficult experiences of others without judgement. Many people may have experienced difficulties just like yours, so it’s likely that whatever you share with your psychologist, they will have heard similar concerns from clients before. The more open and honest you can be during your sessions, the better your psychologist will be able to understand you and your difficulties. 
 
Ask Questions
If your psychologist mentions anything that you don’t understand, or feel confused by, make sure you speak up and let them know. They are not a mind readers, and though they will check in with you frequently about your understanding, it’s important that you remember that it’s your right to ask for clarification whenever you need to. This is also a good opportunity to practice being appropriately assertive, if this is something you struggle with. So when in doubt, just ask!
 
Now you know how to make the most out of a session with a Clinical Psychologist, if you believe that you could benefit from some professional support, why not give us a call today? Our team of highly skilled and experienced Clinical Psychologists are here to help. Call us now on 6107 6828, and take the first step towards improving your mental health.

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