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What To Do With Your Therapist

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Ways To Use Psychotherapy

There are times when people who are thinking about seeing a therapist hesitate because they are not exactly sure what to expect, or what to even want to receive from therapy. A person might know that they want help with their relationships, or with mood management, or with improving their quality of life, but that can be rather vague. While a prospective therapist will likely talk to you about his or her services and give you an idea of their areas of expertise, it can be helpful to have a starting point yourself.

It might be helpful to take some time out of your busy schedule and ask yourself if you would benefit from integrating the acquisition of certain skills, or from working through certain internal conflicts etc. You may even have several areas of life and more than a few issues that you want to work on. Remember, your mental health is important, and you have the right and obligation to your own self, to set yourself up for success. It might help to sort through those and break them down so that you can present these to the therapist when you meet for a first consultation. I find that most of my patients like to have a balance of the more process oriented “talk therapy” with either psychoanalytical, psycho spiritual, or insight oriented feedback and facilitation during some sessions, combined with some down to earth self help basic skills building. Below is an example of some common skills building therapeutic requests that can easily be integrated into overall psychotherapy:

· To learn coping skills: This is a very large category- learning how to cope and to prevent anxiety, depression, or mania by using a variety of strategies can be very specific and helpful. You can focus exploring what skills match your lifestyle and personal disposition, and the on learning and mastering one skill at a time.

· To develop a wellness plan: I discussed this at length in a different post; developing a wellness plan that also incorporates a personalized crisis prevention plan can provide you with a sense of stability and safety which will likely affect your overall sense of well being.

· To work through the fallout and developing both Action Plans and Fallout Prevention plans: Targeting specific issues, such as relationship fall out, or work fall out, etc… can be helpful. Once you have explored the events that precipitated the fallout, including your own vulnerabilities, you can develop an Action Plan for either starting over, or for repairing the damage, and then you can create a prevention plan that uses new ideas, ways of perceiving, ways of responding to events, ways to strengthening to decrease vulnerability, new approaches etc… which are designed to increase the probability of more desired outcomes.

· To have a partner in leaning your cycles and finding ways to remain balanced through them: See a therapist weekly can be a good way to monitor your moods and explore your triggers and responses and self care strategies on a regular basis. You will be able to get and understand your “baseline” and get a good intuitive feel so that you know when you are experiencing “normal” ups and downs, or if a depression or mania is creeping up on you.

· To help you repair and restore important relationships: I mentioned this as an example for Fallout , however, relationships deserve a special mention- if you have relationship difficulties as a theme in your life discomfort, then you can mention this to your therapist and work on relationship building and repairing specifically.

· To increase you ability to tolerate discomfort while discovering new approaches to life and increasing a sense of well being: This is the focus of treatment when an individual feels “fragile” and is “triggered” easily, and just doesn’t understand why, leaving the person feeling defeated allot of the time. If you have been easily triggered into depression, there are specific tools that you can develop and strategies that you can learn that can help you to push through difficult times without slipping into serious anger or depression.

· Communication Skills and or Assertiveness Training: You might want to target communication skills specifically, or take one set of skills at a time to improve your overall ease in functioning in several different areas of your life at once.

These are just a few common specific areas and skills that you might consider asking your therapist to focus on. Once you feel as if you have mastered an area or skill, you will likely find that many areas and skills are interconnected and you find improvement in many areas as a result of improving in one. Sometimes using this approach can take the overwhelm out of seeing a therapist and help an individual get a feeling that there is a direction and purpose to the therapy. My own therapeutic style is integrated, so I usually have my patients choose a focus with some long term and short term goals, while weaving in processing, talk therapy and the less focused interventions that range from psychoanalytic, to existential, to spiritual as my clients move from session to session. This provides a space for “soul” development and connection that is ever so healing, while also offering an opportunity to see his or her own actual progress and outcomes in the more specific areas.



What To Do With Your Therapist

Dr. Barbara Bachmeier

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APA Reference
Bachmeier, D. (2015). What To Do With Your Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 28 Apr 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Apr 2015
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