Three Ways to Get More Bang for Your Therapy Buck!

 

Productive therapeutic experiences are an excellent way to invest in yourself. Effective therapy can save you thousands of dollars and hours/days/years of frustration and emotional pain.

Therapy is a safe way to explore and talk through your pain because you can speak freely without worrying about:

  • how your issues impact your listener
  • whether what you are talking about will remain confidential or not
  • holding back emotions/thoughts

Therapy is a safe way to:

  • explore and articulate your thoughts and beliefs more fully
  • express emotions/feelings
  • increase awareness of sensations in your body
  • disclose and process secrets
  • get feedback on your emotional function
  • get heard and understood
  • get ideas and help to make the changes you want to make

Three ways to get more bang for your therapy buck:

 

  1. Choose the right Psychologist

Make sure that the psychologist you choose is licenced/registered with an accredited association—for example, the College of Psychologists of British Columbia.

I strongly recommend you DO NOT seek help from someone who is not a member of an accredited association.

Word of mouth is an excellent way to find a competent therapist who has integrity.

 

Personal Story:

My husband and I built two homes, and I learned something from those experiences that has helped me.

Everyone, no matter what their training/expertise, makes mistakes. When we were building our homes, the lawyer made mistakes drawing up the legal papers, the architect made mistakes designing the homes, the blaster made mistakes, the electrician made mistakes, the plumber made mistakes, etc.

My point is, no matter what training and experience someone might have, everyone makes mistakes. It’s how many they make and how they handle the mistakes that counts. Therefore, do not assume everything a psychologist does is perfect. It’s ok to question your therapist.

 

  1. Make every session count as much as you can.

Before the session:

Prepare the evening/night before you go.  Spend about 30 minutes in thought about what you might want to talk about and/ or explore.  Write down any thoughts, images, dreams, memories that come to you during that time. Recurring dreams and thoughts are especially important to share with the therapist.

  • Note down any sensations you experience as you go through this time of reflection. For example, teary, tight throat, heart palpitations, goosebumps, pangs of pain/dread/fear, etc.
  • Do not analyze what comes to you during this time.
  • Do not judge what comes up as worthy or not worthy of bringing up in therapy.

Upon arrival:

  • Arrive 10 – 15 minutes ahead of your appointment.
  • Turn off your phone

During the session: 

  • Engage fully in the session physically and emotionally.
  • If, during the session, sensations from your bladder start interrupting your focus, do not hesitate to go to the washroom. Do not sit in discomfort for any length of time because your session will likely be less effective if you cannot focus.
  • During a session, it is helpful to the therapist and productive to you to let the therapist know your thoughts, emotions, and sensations.

After the session:

  • Allow 20-30 minutes after the session to process.
  • It is a productive way to consolidate your therapy experience. You can even take a nap, which could help keep you safe if you experience side effects of therapy, such as discombobulation, disorientation, nausea, etc.

 

Clients often say to me:

“I was in a fog most of the day after our last session.”

“I don’t remember leaving your office last time.”

“I felt like I’d been run over by a semi-trailer truck after our last session.”

“I had a headache that started during the session and lasted the rest of the day.”

“I felt nauseated for quite some time after our last session.”

  1. Assess your therapy experience

Not every session can be productive. Sometimes even frustrating, seemingly unproductive sessions can generate movement. But most sessions should feel they were worth your time, energy, effort, and money you invested in them.

 

Assessment Checklist:

 

How productive was the session?

Not at all 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Extremely

 

How invested in the session was I?

Not at all 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Extremely

 

How much has my life changed since starting therapy?

Not at all 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Extremely

 

The only person to be honest with is yourself.

Maybe you need to “pretend” to do therapy until you trust your therapist. That’s okay. (Feeling safe with your therapist is important, especially if you were not safe with the parents/caregivers who raised you.)

Note: Do not start out trusting your therapist.

Tell your therapist some of your problems and see what he/she does with them.

Let the therapist earn your trust.

 

 

When Should You Go to Therapy?

 

When Should You Go to Therapy?

  • When you don’t have problems, and you want to prevent them (preventive action).
  • When you think about going.  It’s easier to address problems before they get too serious.
  • When problems keep happening, and you keep responding the same way.
  • When you have PTSD or childhood trauma from the past that keeps popping up in the present.
  • To increase your awareness of:
  • your thoughts (beliefs/images/standards/values)
  • sensations in your body
  • patterns of behaviour (identify negative patterns and tweak them to get a positive outcome)
  • identify positive patterns and tweak them so that they happen more often.

If you are in a good place, i.e., you are not particularly stressed or bothered about anything, you may think there is no reason to seek therapy, so you cancel the session.

However, I encourage you not to cancel.; When you have nothing pressing, issues can come to the foreground that needs addressing.  I often find those are the most productive sessions my clients have.

Canceling sessions:   Clients often unconsciously cancel sessions when they do not want to face their struggles. If that is true for you, allow the part of you that does not want to face the issue or feel unpleasant sensations to say so.  In other words, allow expression from this part of you.

You are conflicted – part of you wants to face certain issues and part of you does not. Often this frees up the energy to realign, – creating new neural pathways with different pleasant/calm sensations.

Procrastination: arriving late for sessions is another unconscious way to avoid dealing with issues.

If you are late, let go of being late and settle into what time is left of the session.

Take two minutes to breathe and shift gears from being in the outside world to being in therapy.

Sometimes you can be even more productive when you do that.

 

Client Story:

One time, a client of mine came rushing to her session. She was late. 

She apologized profusely for being late, explained why she was late and berated herself for being late and wasting my time. She said she had something important she wanted to address, and now she would not have time to do it.

I listened to her for 3 minutes, and then I said I want you to put the issue of your lateness aside; we will revisit it at the end of the session. I would like to see what we can accomplish in the time we have left. Do you think you can do that?” 

She nodded, and we focused on her issue for the remaining time.  

At the end of the session, I asked her how she felt about what we had done.  She said she felt good about it.  I asked her if she had gotten what she wanted and needed from our work together.  She responded, “Yes, more than I thought I would.”

 

If you’re late, make use of whatever time you have.

Anger is Typically a Secondary Feeling

Scenario: James watched as his son, a talented goalie, let in a goal that lost the game. Exasperated, he let out a cry of disgust. After the game, James berated his son for not trying hard enough. His discouraged son tried to convince his father that he had tried as hard as he could. Both felt bad.

There is another feeling under the anger—sensations of vulnerability—that act like an engine fueling the anger and driving the behaviour. Any vulnerable feeling can fuel anger. Some people get angry when they feel out of control, hurt, threatened, pressured or even hungry or tired. There are many sensations of vulnerability, including feelings of abandonment, belittlement, shame, embarrassment, disappointment, hopelessness, rejection, and more.

In James’s case, there was disappointment underneath his anger. When his son did well, he felt proud and important. When his son did not do well, he felt like a failure. He hated the sensations of failure, so he shifted into anger and got on his son’s case.

Vulnerable feelings can range from slight to extreme. No one likes to feel the sensations of vulnerability, so most people avoid or deflect from the sensations by talking about something else, focusing on a task, or worrying about aches or pains they have.

Or they may get angry.

Why get angry? When people shift into anger, they stop feeling the sensations of vulnerability. The sensations of vulnerability do not go away; they go into the background. Feeling angry is better than feeling the sensations of humiliation, rejection, or any other vulnerable feeling. When people feel angry, they feel sensations of power, not vulnerability. With anger, it may be possible to change what is going on for better or worse. Anger has a purpose.

 

Anger is a secondary emotion.

 

When people get angry, they are looking for a specific outcome. James needed his son to do well so that he could feel good about himself. He got angry at his son, pressuring him into trying harder. Most children feel uncomfortable when their parents are angry, so they try to do whatever it is that will stop the anger, whether it is good for them or not. They become more focused on what their parents are feeling than on the activity, making it harder for them to do well.

What could James do to achieve his goals? First, James needs to be aware that he feels disappointed. He probably shifts into anger so quickly that he does not realize it. Secondly, he needs to realize that his disappointment is about himself, not his son.

Once James is aware, he can:

1) Do things in his own life to achieve a sense of accomplishment and importance.

2) Give his son positive feedback about what he is doing well so that his son stays focused on the sport. This way, his son is more likely to enjoy the activity and perform at his best.

What is the result? They both feel good. His son feels good about his performance, and James feels good about his parenting.

 

When parents figure out the engine (vulnerable feeling) driving their anger, they have more choices. They may continue to handle situations in the same way or find more effective ways—without getting angry—that are positive for everyone concerned.

Explore the feelings underlying your anger. What did you feel before you got angry? What is the purpose of your anger? Is there a better way to go about it than getting angry?