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Individual therapy sessions can be time when the most growth happens on an individual level. So how do you get the most out of your sessions? These 10 tips can help you prepare and get the most out of individual sessions.

1. Come with an agenda. At any agency there will be documents that the clinical staff will need to complete with you (treatment plans, ongoing assessments, and scales) but the rest of the time should be dedicated for your presenting concern. Come with an agenda. Ask your therapist before the session if there is anything that needs to be completed and an estimate of how long that will take so it can be factored into the agenda.

2. Bring content from group sessions into individual sessions. Majority of the time is spent in groups getting content from peers and other counselors. Take notes and find what content you can relate to and process it with your individual counselor. This can be especially helpful when a group is not a process group and focused on information.

3. Set time for family or supports when appropriate. It is important for treatment to keep your supports in the loop as you feel comfortable. Talk with your counselor so a plan can be in place and scheduled in advance. Family involvement every session may not be appropriate so identify the balance you are comfortable with.

4. Past. Present. or Future. When coming into a session identify the presenting problem and provide information. If it is an event from the past have important information prepared to share. If it is a current situation consider the impact it is having on you. If you are thinking about it more than 3 times per day it is a good topic to process in individual sessions. Sessions should finish with a future focused goal. Goal setting is beneficial for tracking progress and working through barriers.

5. Prepare for Trauma sessions. If it has been identified and you are working with a trauma counselor make sure to take time to prepare before the session and take care of yourself after the session. EMDR, NET, and other modalities can be emotionally draining when working through trauma. Make sure to check-in with your individual therapist that a plan is in place to take care of yourself after individual sessions.

6. Allow your therapist time to prepare. You may have heard about some new modality or interesting article. Give your therapist time to do their own research and have an informed conversation with you. Therapy is a learning and growing process for both parties so allowing your therapist to get more informed can help build rapport and allow for more trust in the relationship.

7. Know your therapist’s specialty. Every therapist has their own specialty whether its grief and loss, trauma, CBT, or gestalt. If a presenting concern comes up and you are interested in learning about someone else’s expertise, let your individual counselor know.

8. Be honest. Honesty is at the center of trust. It takes time to build trust with your individual therapist. Be honest with the content you discuss. If something is not working and you want to try something different, let your therapist know. In order to get the most out of your individual sessions you must advocate for your needs. We are here to help but we’re not mind readers after all!

9. Therapy is hard work. I wish that you could come for an individual therapy session and all your problems would be solved. That is just not how this process works. It is hard work. Take an active role in your sessions and be patient. Change comes with time.

10. Be open-minded. Therapist’s have a plethora of tools they have learned throughout their careers. Try something new and be open to change. Your therapist is here to empower you to make change and to give you the tools you need to be successful.

Everyone is different and every experience will be different. Biggest take away is keep your therapist in the know of what you need and be open minded. Change comes when you allow it.

Author: Laura Golden, MSW, LSW – Footprints to Recovery – Counselor

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