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Getting the Most Out of Addiction Therapy

May 26th, 2020

Believe it or not, getting the most out of therapy sessions is a skill that can be developed (not as the therapist, but as the patient). While your therapist certainly may drive the conversation, as the patient you have complete control of what is talked about. It might come naturally to some people how to get the most out of addiction therapy, but for others it might not feel so easy, particularly for those who are newer at it or more closed off emotionally.

If you’re new to therapy or perhaps considering opening up to the idea of therapy as a means to help with addiction, then this blog post is for you. You are the spearhead of your own recovery, so keeping these tips in mind when going into a session might help you a lot in the future.

Pay Close Attention to Thoughts, Feelings, and Desires

More specifically, observe how you’re feeling in between sessions. Your emotional reaction to certain stimuli is exactly what a therapist can use to help understand how you’re feeling. The more specific you are, the better. Being mindful of your thoughts in general is already a good practice for mental health, so helping isolate these thoughts with a therapist is kind of just icing on the cake. 

If one thought or emotion stands out to you as particularly strange or abnormal, that’s something to talk about as well. Don’t let the stigma of “crazy thoughts” hold you back from discussing it, because that’s exactly what therapists are there to help you figure out in complete confidence. They might even help you understand why your thoughts might not be as crazy as you think.

Reflect on Each Session

We know most people don’t tend to walk out of a therapy session and forget everything that was said (unless maybe they’re forced to be there maybe). However, appropriate thoughtfulness of what was discussed in such a short session can help make advice lasting well into the next session of therapy.

An example of what you can do to be presently mindful about what you’ve learned is writing daily in a personal journal. Write about your day, thoughts, and feelings. You’ll be surprised to find just how many connections you might be able to make with your therapy sessions and even the smallest thoughts when it’s all written down on paper.

If doing something like journaling is too much of a time commitment or a disciplinary issue, even just a few minutes each day quietly reflecting on your session, and of your day. Just like journaling, this can help you make the connections between your therapy and daily recovery. Though writing it down helps cement it in your memory, even just the act of reflecting and being aware is what is most important.

Let Your Therapist Know When They Miss the Mark

As much as we’d like to say therapists know exactly what you need or what you mean all the time, they’re not all-knowing. Being confrontational about your feelings, even if through another person, is a great skill to develop. If a therapist makes an incorrect observation about you, correct them, for both your sake and theirs.

This tip extends to more than just feelings and thoughts as well. Sometimes, venting our thoughts unfiltered to a therapist with no interruptions is the best way to effectively spend time in a session. Other times, guided thought through questions and observations from your therapist helps more. If your therapist is guiding you in a way that you may think is ineffective, say something. Unless they specifically think otherwise, you are probably right to take a loose guide.

This particular tip might be a struggle for some to identify when it’s happening. If it’s not obvious to you when it happens during the session, this is where being mindful and reflective between sessions will help. Try to ask yourself questions such as “why was this session not as productive?” or “why did what my therapist said seem wrong?”. If you don’t catch problems in the moment, asking yourself questions like these might help you identify them quicker in the future. 

Remember That You Are in Control

You are in control of your own therapy! If you feel like your therapy is becoming off-topic, or possibly becoming ineffective, it is going to be up to you to try and make a change. Though it may not seem that way sometimes, you know yourself better than your therapist and allowing them to guide rather than control is critical to finding effective recovery.

A therapist should challenge you and help you understand your thoughts and feelings. It’s natural for therapy to feel like a source of healthy anxiety or hard work sometimes, but it should not be any more than that. Sometimes, a therapist just is not a good fit for a patient. If the thought of your therapist is evoking fear, anger, or a feeling of wasting time despite your best efforts, then it is worth your time to consider a different therapist. Most importantly: don’t give up on therapy if you have a bad fit! We can assure you there are better horizons ahead.

The takeaway of all this in a nutshell is to get the maximum effect of therapy, you have to mentally commit and work hard. Self therapy outside of sessions, maintaining the mindset of recovery, and working with what you know is best for yourself will help therapy take hold and make lasting changes. Find out what works best for you!