How to get the most out of counselling

In this guide, we will discuss how to get the most out of counselling, a few tips and tricks to prepare you for your counselling sessions.

How to get the most out of counselling?

You may be wondering “how to get the most out of counselling?”, well, here we have some tips on how to get the most out of it according to Dr Patcik Keelan, a licenced psychologist in Canada. 

He has identified some of the main characteristics to get the most out of your counselling sessions and we will address them. 

Before we jump right into it, here are some simple tips that can also help you get the most out of your therapy sessions:

  • Use metaphors to explain your problems, when useful to understand your perspective.
  • Notice how your body reacts when talking about your problems or a situation that manifests with pain or discomfort.
  • Attend your sessions regularly since no progress can be made if you go on occasion.
  • Remember your therapist is not like your friends or family members, they are professionals so they won’t judge you. 
  • Allow the pauses if you feel like taking a moment to breathe or calm down and also to hear what your therapist has interpreted from what you have said.
  • Talk about your feelings in an open and detailed manner so your therapist can acknowledge and validate them more appropriately.  
  • Take risks about sharing and letting someone else know how you feel. This will make you feel a bit vulnerable but you can also find the comfort you need and reassurance that you are actually not alone. 

1. Know what goals you want to achieve in counselling

Counselling works better if you have clearly defined goals. If you have defined goals then the therapist is most likely to be able to help create a defined strategy for you, to help you reach your goals. If you don’t have clear goals of they are undefined then progress is less likely to happen or it will be at a very slow pace. By stating clear goals, you will be able to get the right help for you. 

2. Be ready to do some work in sessions and between sessions

In order to see results, it is important to be consistent with the learning process, both in and out of counselling therapy. Therefore, being enthusiastic, willing and open to change will most likely help you get the most out of counselling. 

Your counsellor will make sure to work with you to make sure the work they have asked you to do is helpful and in tune with your capabilities. Just make sure you follow the instructions your counsellor gives you, they, under no circumstance, mean to harm you or make you feel worse but if they encourage you to do something you don’t feel comfortable with make sure you let them know and have them explain the reason behind it so you can be in tune with them.

3. Focus on what you can do rather than on what others can do to address your issues

Clients who focus on what they can do to address their issues make better progress than clients who focus on what others are doing or what others should be doing. The problem with focusing on others is that, unless the other person is in the counselling room, talking about what they should be doing is unlikely to lead to their making the changes you need them to make to address your issues. So even if the other person is contributing to your problems, focusing on how you can respond to that person will likely be the most effective strategy for relieving your distress. 

4. Be open to trying new ideas and skills

Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If you want to make real progress, you need to be open and willing to accept new ideas and learning new skills that your therapist suggests to have the best chance of getting a different outcome and change your current situation. Having an open mind attitude is key to getting the most out of counselling sessions.

5. Focus on what you can do rather than on what others can do to solve your problems

If you focus on what you can do, your strengths and capabilities to address your problems, you can actually make better progress than when you focus on what others are doing or should be doing for you. The problem with focusing on others is that, unless they are physically there or attending therapy, it is less likely there is going to be a change or less likely for them to make the changes you need to happen. 

6. Adopt a problem-solving mindset

Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, the information you provide your counsellor with help speed up the assessment and set goals for you to see real changes in your life. However, what you say to your therapist needs to focus on identifying the problem, taking action, learning new skills or reinforcing those you already have and find a solution through problem-solving. 

If you spend a lot of the talking in ruminating or verbalizing repeatedly negative thoughts and comments about yourself, another person or the future yet to come then little progress can be made. Expressing those feelings perceived as negative to a good listener but without ruminating on them,  can help you address your concerns to move forward and avoid getting “stuck” on the feeling that will eventually only make you feel worse. 

7. Have a positive attitude and realistic expectations about counselling

The expectations you have set at the beginning of your counselling sessions can play a critical role and determine the course and progress of the counselling therapy. If you have overly negative and unrealistic expectations, it is less likely that you will see any progress. 

For example, if you expect to see changes or get “cured” simply by talking without making any efforts to do the practical activities they leave you between sessions then you will be disappointed because it is unlikely there will be any changes. 

Additionally, if you enter counselling sessions with a pessimistic approach that nothing you have tried has ever worked for you, then you will live up to your expectation and no change will come to you. On the contrary, if you have realistic and positive expectations then this is likely going to lead you to the pathway of progress and change. As soon as you start noticing the changes, it will motivate you in the right direction.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Why is this blog about how to get the most out of counselling, important?

Deciding to go to counselling therapy is not an easy choice to make, so we congratulate you on your decision to adopt a real life-changing approach. This will be the first step to walking in the right direction or to become the person you would like to be. 

Knowing some tips and advises on how to get the most out of counselling will ensure you make progress within the therapeutic relationship. It is necessary to make some changes from the inside to reflect them on the outside and project them into the real world through your behaviour. However, it is not easy so it is necessary for you to be fully committed to making changes and adjustments on how you are thinking and behaving at this moment. 

Feel free to comment in the comments section below!

What we recommend for Counselling

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression or any other mental disorders then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about “how to get the most out of counselling”

How do I get the most out of my counselling session?

There are many ways to get the most out of your counselling sessions. Here are 10 tips from psych central:
Choose carefully your counsellor, someone you can feel comfortable with, who you can build a trustworthy relationship and be empathetic. 
View therapy as a collaboration, not expecting the counsellor to solve all your problems.
Schedule sessions at a good time, when it is more convenient for you.
Say anything in therapy, do not hold back, try telling the counsellor with detail about what is happening in your life.
Talk about therapy in therapy.
Set markers for change and make sure you are willing to make changes to your lifestyle.
Have an order of operations, set goals. 
Do the work outside your sessions. If your counsellor left some things to do at home or other settings then make sure you implement the techniques and advises. 

How do I prepare myself for counselling?

To prepare yourself for counselling and to assist for the first time, you need to make sure to:
Fill out the paperwork: before you attend the first appointment, make sure you fill out the paperwork. Many counselling offices allow you to download the forms from their website so you can complete them at home and at your own pace. This way you don’t have to attend your appointment 30 minutes before to fill them. 
Prepare your self for your appointment: it is important to determine how you want your counsellor to help you with. Try writing down the issues or problems you would like to discuss with them as well as realistic goals to achieve. If you have had counselling sessions in the past also make sure to write what you have discussed and achieved with them. 
Don’t stress yourself: try to relax and stay calm about your appointment, you can try doing some breathing exercises or meditation. 
Keep an open mind: try attending your appointment with an open mind and be willing to embrace the suggestions and exercises that your counsellor gives you. Additionally, make sure you practice the exercises and the homework they leave you. 

What is effective counselling?

Effective counselling means there is a cooperative and joint effort from both sides (you and your counsellor) to establish a relationship based on honesty, trust and empathy. Which can, in turn, help you to talk about your feelings and thoughts in an honest way to ensure the effectiveness of the therapy.

What are the basic Counselling skills?

It has been proposed that some of the basic counselling skills include:

Attending what you are saying.
Avoid interrupting.
Reflecting and paraphrasing 
Clarifying the ideas and using appropriate questions.
Focus on what you are saying and how you say it.
Building rapport with you.
Summarising what you have said.
Sense of immediacy. 

What should I expect at my first counselling session?

For your first counselling session you can expect according to Psychcentral:

Why you sought therapy.
Your personal history and current situation. 
Your current symptoms.
Don’t just sit there.
Be open. 
Be prepared.
Ask questions.
Be open and honest about your feelings.