Thoughts from This Therapist: Tell Your Therapist What You Need
I feel that since last week I talked about the fit of a therapist this week would be good to talk about how to get what you need out of therapy. Although we are professionals we are not always perfect, and sometimes we may not know everything you need from us.
And let’s be honest: you know yourself better than anyone. So although we usually get the jist of it, and can make an educated guess at what you need and how to best support you, sometimes it is more beneficial for you to simply tell us.
Please don’t ever be afraid to tell a therapist what you need from them. If you do share, and if they are a good fit, they will listen and provide what you need, if they are able to. Sometimes therapists may not have the skill you are seeking, and when that occurs they can help you find someone who can meet your needs. It is their job to help you, not the other way around— but providing them some basic info can help.
One of the questions that I like to ask during intakes is “what did you like/not like about therapy in the past?” or some variation of this. This question is to help me determine if I can meet the specific needs that you have as a client.
The answer also gives me a pointer as to which direction to take sessions moving forward. So I encourage you to think about the answers to these questions, and be prepared to speak them out loud, because it will help you know what your specific therapy needs may be.
Now that we have laid the foundation, let us look at some needs you may have in therapy. I will explore some of the more common ones here. Keep in mind there will be some that are unique to you, and that is alright; therapy is not a one-size-fits-all activity, which is why it’s important to know your needs.
One of my favorite things about therapy (as a client) is the homework, and yet I recognize not everyone finds this as exciting as I do. Even if you hate it, keep in mind that a lot of growth comes from outside the therapy space (hence why I like homework so much).
So, if you need HW assigned because you find it helpful, then let your therapist know. On the flip side, if you know that you will not do the work, do not have time for it, or have any other reason why homework won’t work for you, then let them know that. Remember, therapy is about what will help you the most.
Something I see a lot is the need for my clients to be pushed— toward goals, tasks, or even specific actions. Ask yourself: “Do I need my therapist to push me?” Figure out the answer to this question and share it with your therapist.
If you find you do need someone to push you, then your therapist can help you with that. If pushing you is triggering, or maybe just not working for you, explore with them why that is, because it may be something that can help your healing journey. Or maybe being pushed just won’t help you— and that’s ok too.
Much like homework, worksheets are a very handy tool in the therapeutic process. Again, though, some people just don’t have the space for them, and that is alright. Let your therapist know either way.
If you like worksheets, I promise you we have a stock we can work through with you. If you don’t like worksheets, then we know to avoid them. The same is true for reading books; it can be helpful but if it is not your thing then we know to avoid them.
Have you ever had a conversation with your therapist about communication between sessions? As therapists, we all have our own preferences for this, but it is still an important topic to cover. So I ask you: what do you need from your therapist?
If you are having a tough time and reach out just to vent, do you need a response? What is your expectation for that response? I try to always respond to my clients’ emails and texts, but sometimes things are just busy, so if I don’t know that the client needs me to respond, I might not. Therefore, it is helpful for you to set that expectation in advance, so it can be met in a way that you’re both comfortable with.
What kind of knowledge do you hope your therapist has? Outside of the professional training we all get, there is often a lot of other important information that we can educate ourselves on. Do you expect that, if your therapist doesn’t know something, they educate themselves? Or do you expect to explain it to them?
My personal stance is this: I will seek the information out in order to best support my clients, and I have had multiple clients ask that of me in introduction sessions. It is important to know where you stand, so your needs can be met.
Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list, just some of the big points that I deal with regularly. Please feel free to share anything you may think is important to you, or to help others!
Are there other topics you would like me to cover? Any thoughts on this topic? We would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or find us on social media (@therapeutichealingjourney on Instagram or @llctherapeutic on Twitter).