NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Psychotherapy is an Active Process: The More You're Engaged in Your Therapy, the More You'll Get Out of It

As I tell clients who come to see me in my psychotherapy private practice in New York City, psychotherapy is an active process.  The more you're engaged in your therapy, the more you'll get out of it (see my article: Getting the Most Out of Your Psychotherapy Sessions).

Psychotherapy is an Active Process: The More You're Engaged in Your Therapy, the More You'll Get Out of It 

What Does It Mean to Be "Actively Engaged" in Your Therapy?
Many clients who are in psychotherapy for the first time think that psychotherapy is a passive process, but this isn't the case for contemporary psychotherapy.

New clients, who have never been in psychotherapy before, need psychoeducation from their psychotherapists in order to understand how to be actively engaged in psychotherapy (see my article: Why It's Important For Psychotherapists to Provide Clients With Psychoeducation About How Psychotherapy Works).

Being actively engaged in your psychotherapy sessions means more than just showing up, although, of course, on the most basic level, that's important.  But beyond showing up, you will get much more out of your psychotherapy sessions by:
  • Being Open-minded and Curious About Your Therapy:  Psychotherapy isn't something that is "done" to you.  Your psychotherapist has certain skills and experience to help you overcome your problems but, as you know, your therapist doesn't have a magic wand to make your problems disappear, so you will get much more out of your therapy sessions if you begin therapy by being open-minded and curious about the psychotherapy process (see my article: Starting Psychotherapy With a Sense of Curiosity and Openness).
  • Asking Your Psychotherapist Questions: Whether you're new to psychotherapy or you've attended therapy in the past, if there's anything that you don't understand or you have questions about, ask your therapist.  It's your therapy.  You're spending your hard earned money and time to be in therapy.  It's important that you understand what's going on and what you might expect.
  • Understanding That Psychotherapy is a Process: Psychotherapy is different from going to see your medical doctor who might give you a shot or a prescription so you can overcome your problem.  Psychotherapy is an individualized process that unfolds over time.  Each psychotherapy client's process will be unique.  When psychotherapy is going well, the work in therapy usually builds on itself over time.
  • Considering How Far You Want to Go in Psychotherapy: Sometimes, I compare psychotherapy to home repair as a metaphor.  When you make home repairs, you decide if you want to do a little painting and spruce up the place or if you want to do major repairs.  It's the same with psychotherapy.  Your psychotherapist can make recommendations and you would do well to consider them.  But, ultimately, it's up to you whether you want symptom relief or you want to get to the root of your problems.  You might be alright with symptom relief now and maybe you'll consider delving deeper your next time in therapy.  Or, you might want to delve deeper now so that you overcome your problems beyond symptom relief.  Similarly, you can make choices as to whether you want to focus on short term or long term goals.  Once again, it's up to you--not your therapist.
  • Spending Time Reflecting on Your Psychotherapy Sessions: If you want to get more out of your psychotherapy sessions, rather than forgetting what came up in your session once you leave therapy, spend time reflecting on your thoughts and feelings soon after the therapy session.  Even though you've left the session, the process continues to go on for you in your mind unconsciously.  That means, whether you realize it or not, you're never in the same place when you return for your next session.  Why not try to reflect on what's changing for you by thinking about it between sessions?
  • Spending Time Writing Between Psychotherapy Sessions: Writing between sessions is something I recommend to my clients because it helps you to reflect on what's happening for you and how you're changing as a result of your therapy.  Many clients ask, "How will I know if psychotherapy is helping me to change?"  One way is to reflect and write about what comes up for you between sessions and the changes that you notice.  You can choose whether or not you share your writing with your psychotherapist or not.  Aside from writing, some people draw pictures or write stories--whatever works for you to help you to be actively engaged in the process between sessions (see my article: The Benefit of Journal Writing Between Psychotherapy Sessions).
Psychotherapy is an Active Process: Journal Writing Between Therapy Sessions
  • Talking to Your Psychotherapist About Something That's Bothering You About the Therapy: Maybe you're changing in ways that you don't understand.  Maybe something got triggered in your last session. Maybe your therapist said something that you didn't like or you misunderstood.  Maybe your therapist misunderstood you.  A lot can happen in a therapy session.  Your therapist might sense that you're having a problem, but maybe she won't, especially if you're good at hiding when things bother you.  In that case, how will your therapist know unless you tell her?  You need to provide feedback to your therapist whether she elicits it from you or not (see my article: How to Talk to Your Psychotherapist About Something That's Bothering You in Therapy).
  • Understanding That "Feeling Better" Might Not Necessarily Mean Your Problems Are Resolved:  As I stated above, it's up to you to decide if you want symptom relief or you want to work deeper on your problems.  If you decide that you want symptom relief, you need to understand that this might mean, even though you're "feeling better," your problems might not necessarily be resolved--depending upon what you want to get out of therapy.  If you know this and you're okay with it, the choice is yours.  However, as an informed consumer, it's important to know what you have opted to do once you've decided that you want to end therapy (see my article: Starting to Feel Better in Therapy).
Psychotherapy is an active process for the client and the psychotherapist.

The more you're actively engaged in your psychotherapy sessions during and in between sessions, the more you'll get out of your therapy.

Getting Help in Therapy
The decision to start psychotherapy, especially if you've never been in therapy before, can be a difficult one.

It takes courage to take steps to change (see my article: Developing the Courage to Change).

If you've been unsuccessful in overcoming your problems on your own, you could benefit from seeing a licensed mental health professional (see my article: The Courage to Change).

A skilled psychotherapist can help you to identify and work through your problems so that you can live a more meaningful life (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

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 in a dynamic, interactive and collaborative way 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.