Want To Get The Most Out Of Therapy? Avoid These 5 Mistakes

Written by Lisa Esile

Going to therapy can, and should, be awesome. In you go, with your crappy thoughts and hangups, and out you come with a feeling-better version of you.

But it doesn’t always work like this. Sometimes the therapist is as stuck as you are. And after talking the ear off a mulberry bush and “investing” to the tune of a rather nice boat, you never really get anywhere. We all know you can’t just wander in expecting someone else to fix you. You have to play a bigger part than this. I’ve found that avoiding these five common mistakes greatly helps you get over things – no matter what "things" is!

1. Looking for a "yes person."

This is the last thing you want. The whole idea is to get a fresh take on things. You’re after peaceful feelings, not someone propping up the beliefs around your non-peaceful ones. I saw a therapist once who spent the hour handing me tissues while I talked and cried. She probably had things to say, though I can’t remember what. She offered me sympathy; I needed insight. She was well meaning, but she had no new perspective to offer. This is what you have friends for. Gracefully exit the relationship and try someone else.

2. Quitting because you're angry.

The biggest mistake people make is to stop seeing a therapist because they feel the therapist has been offensive. Unless the reason you’re offended is they tried to grab your boob/boys bits or turned up stoned, chances are you’re getting somewhere. You go in because you have a problem with your thinking right? (You might think your problem is your sucky life, but it’s not, it’s your perspective.) The reason you feel bad is because of a faulty belief about some aspect of your sense of self-worth. When this belief – the same one causing your problems – is challenged, your mind gets angry. Rabid dog angry. Your mind does this to stop you learning a new way. The same new way you’re paying all this money to hear.

Go home. Notice how annoyed you are. Think back to what was said. Are you reacting to what you thought your therapist said, or to the actual words? Is there any truth to it? And what’s the big deal, anyway? Take your time. Consider there’s something helpful in what’s happening. Consider you’re closer than you were before.

3. Thinking progress has to be complicated.

In my experience, true insight isn’t complicated. Wisdom doesn’t come in the form of an array of eraserboards with arrows going to and from you and everyone you’ve ever known, trying to pinpoint the culprits. It’s not a puzzle to untangle. It usually comes in the form of a simple comment or question. A gentle nudge. A fresh way of seeing things. It might take a while to fully get it, but it won’t be complicated. If things seem overly complex, consider the person doesn’t have what you’re after.

4. Blaming others.

A lot of therapy is based on the idea that if you can find out WHY you are like you are, then you can undo the “damage.” This, I believe, is the least helpful way. It shifts the blame to someone or something else – a parent, teacher, your situation, health, etc. It keeps you trapped. Moving on and letting go isn’t about blame; it’s about taking responsibility for your own thoughts. It’s about seeing how your thoughts create your feelings and learning how to ignore the nasty ones – they weaken when you do. It’s realizing you’re not damaged after all, and it’s all to do with self-love, anyway.

5. Not trusting your instincts.

I believe the hallmark of effective therapy is that it doesn’t last for a decade. That it’s quick; sometimes no more than a few sessions. Having said that, I once saw a woman for a couple of years and it was very helpful. More than anything follow your instinct. Are you intrigued? Do you leave feeling lighter? Does this person have something new to offer or do you feel you’ve read the book she/he’s working off. Don’t try too hard. Give new ideas time to settle. Recommendations from people who have actually got over things are also helpful. All the good feelings you’re after are inside you. You’re not damaged you’ve just got some wonky thoughts covering them. With a slight shift in perspective, you’ll know what I mean.

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