NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

How to Make Your Psychotherapy Sessions a Part of Your Life Between Sessions

In an earlier article, Getting the Most Out of Your Psychotherapy Sessions, I addressed certain issues related to starting therapy, including: different types of therapy, how to choose a psychotherapist, ethical issues in therapy, and so on.  In this article, I'm expanding upon a topic that I began discussing in that article and a subsequent article, which is how to make your psychotherapy sessions a part of your life between sessions.

How to Make Your Psychotherapy Sessions a Part of Your Life Between Sessions

What Comes Up in a Psychotherapy Session Doesn't End When You Walk Out of Your Therapist's Office
Psychotherapy is a process.  It's not like taking a pill to make your headache go away.  Things unfold over time.

Many psychotherapy clients, especially clients who are new to therapy, leave their psychotherapist's office at the end of the session and immediately divert their attention to something else.   As a result, they become distracted and forget what they discussed in their session.

When clients forget what was discussed in their therapy sessions, the therapy sessions are relegated to a specific time and place rather than being a part of the rest of their life.  They leave behind whatever "pearls" they gained in therapy, and they will probably need to go over the same material again and again to remember those "pearls."

While I understand that people are busy these days, I recommend that clients take time after each session to reflect on what came up in session and any thoughts, feelings, memories, dreams or daydreams that might come up as a result of the session.

One way to keep your therapy sessions alive and to integrate it into the rest of your life is to write in a journal soon after the session is over.

This doesn't have to be a time-consuming process and the journal entries don't need to be long.

How to Make Your Psychotherapy Sessions a Part of Your Life Between Sessions

Writing After Your Therapy Sessions:
  • Enables You to Reflect on Your Session:  A therapy hour is a relatively short period of time as compared with the rest of your life, especially if you're attending therapy once a week.  It's easy to lose awareness of whatever you gained in that session if you don't take the time to reflect on it and write it down.  There might also be things that come up for you between sessions--a memory, a dream, a question about what your therapist said, something you didn't understand or something that bothered in you in the session (see my article: How to Talk to Your Psychotherapist About Something That's Bothering You in Therapy).  If you don't write these things down, you're likely to forget them.
  • Creates an Increased Awareness of How You're Changing (or Not Changing):  When you spend time reflecting on and writing about your therapy sessions, you can develop an increased awareness of how you're changing (or not changing) in therapy over time.  This doesn't mean that you can expect big transformations in only a few sessions but, over time, you would benefit from assessing your progress in therapy.
  • Enables You to See Where You Might Be Creating Obstacles For Yourself: It's common that when people come to therapy because they want to make changes in their life, they experience a certain amount of ambivalence about making those changes.  Change can be challenging, even if people really want it--especially if people really want it because there's more at stake.  Due to their fear of change, many clients often unconsciously create obstacles for themselves in therapy and in other areas of their life.  By capturing thoughts and feelings in a journal, clients can see over time if they're repeating certain self defeating patterns that are getting in the way of their psychological growth (see my article: Making Changes: Are You Creating Obstacles For Yourself in Therapy Without Even Realizing It?).
  • Allows You to Take Your Share of the Responsibility For Your Therapy:  As I mentioned in an earlier article, psychotherapy is a co-created process between the client and the therapist.  There are certain parts of therapy that your therapist is responsible for including providing an emotionally safe environment for you to open up in therapy (see my article: How Psychotherapists Create a "Holding Environment" in Therapy).  But there are also aspects of your therapy are your responsibility. As mentioned above, if you're creating obstacles for yourself by not doing your part in therapy, like doing homework between sessions (if your therapist gives homework), then you're not taking responsibility for your part in therapy.  If you're keeping a journal, you can see how often this occurs, own it, discuss with your therapist, and change it.
  • Increases Your Awareness of How Your Unconscious Mind Continues the Process :  Even when you don't consciously reflect on your psychotherapy sessions, the work continues to be done between sessions in your unconscious mind.  You might dream or daydream about something you spoke about in therapy or a thought suddenly pops into your mind, not so coincidentally, that is related to a discussion you had with your therapist.  Your dreams, daydreams, thoughts and feelings are important.  They reveal how your unconscious mind is continuing to process the material.  If you don't journal about it, you will have a harder time making these psychological connections.  
  • Increases Your Awareness of the Different Parts of Yourself: In an earlier article, I discussed self states as parts of yourself that are constantly shifting. When you spend time writing in your journal between therapy sessions, you can see how the various parts of yourself affect you, which parts come to the surface in different situations and how these parts interact to help or hinder you (see my article: How Your Shifting Self States Affect You For Better or Worse).
  • Helps You to Develop Increased Awareness About How Life Around You is Always Changing: There's an old saying by the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, which is "You could not step twice in the same river."  The significance of that quote is that, just as the river is ever flowing and never the same, life is ever changing.  If you take the time to write about it, you will gain a new perspective and appreciation for how life is constantly changing.
Heraclitus: You Cannot Step Twice in the Same River
  • Provides You With a Personal Record About Yourself Over Time:  It's easy to forget how you were when you began therapy.  Your therapist can help you to gain insight into how you were at the start of therapy as compared to how you are now.  In addition, if you keep a journal about your experiences in therapy, you will have a personal record about yourself over time.

As I mentioned earlier, the therapeutic process doesn't end when you walk out of your psychotherapist's office.

You're spending valuable time and money for your therapy sessions, so if you want to get the most from your therapy, take the time to reflect on your sessions and write down whatever comes up for you.

By taking the time to keep a journal about your sessions and whatever comes up between sessions, your therapy will become integrated in your life and you will get much more out of your sessions.

Not only will keeping a journal between sessions allow you to be more self reflective and aware of your own psychological process, it will also help you to develop new insights into yourself and the direction you want your therapy and your life to take going forward.

Getting Help in Therapy
Attending psychotherapy is a unique experience (see my article: Psychotherapy: A Unique Intersubjective Experience).

It takes courage to seek help in therapy and to change (see my article: Developing the Courage to Change).

Whether you want to gain psychological insight into yourself, make changes in your life or work through a traumatic experience, working with a skilled psychotherapist can be a life-changing experience (see my articles: (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy and How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

The first step, which is making a phone call to set up a therapy consultation, is usually the hardest step, but it can also be the first step to transforming your life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.