What do you do in therapy? That’s a question I get asked frequently. Often, people don’t even know how to begin their “game plan” with their therapist. So I give them some advice on what to do in therapy. There is no one right answer or approach, but there are several basic areas of focus that are universal and apply to all people in therapy.
First, as the therapist, you need to be aware that your client is unique, so your approach will be different than someone with depression who has not sought help. Each client will require a different strategy based on his or her needs. As a therapist, your job is to match the right diagnosis and treatment for each client with the right strategy. It takes some training and practice to be able to tailor each client’s treatment to meet his or her needs. Your goal as the therapist is to identify both the problem and the solution in each case so that you can help your client solve the problems and develop the strategies necessary to overcome them.
Second, you need to be ready to ask questions to determine what is happening with your clients. Some clients will not communicate well, so even if they tell you what they want to tell you, if they are not willing to say it out loud, you may have trouble understanding what they are saying. Be patient with clients, especially those in therapy for the first time because you will need to learn as much as you can about them before entering into a professional relationship.
Third, in working with clients you will need to listen carefully to what they say. While this seems obvious, you may find yourself doing other things as you try to understand what they are saying. For instance, if the client tells you that he or she feels angry, you may not realize that anger is a negative emotion until you hear the expression on your face when you respond to the client’s expression. When you do hear anger, you need to then evaluate whether or not the client needs to be counseled or encouraged to do further reflection.
Next, you need to pay attention to the words that your client says. This is the part where most therapists lose their temper. You don’t need to get into a verbal war with your client; instead, check for meanings that your client may not be able to express. When you notice that your client may be struggling with some of the things he or she is saying, make an effort to listen intently. Your clients may need further clarification on an issue, and your ability to listen will help you when you go back to your clients for counseling.
Finally, you need to be willing to let your clients know when your patience is worn thin. Many clients are exasperated when the sessions end and they are still feeling unfulfilled. Rather than becoming impatient with your therapist, consider reaching a point where you simply give your client the space he or she needs to clear her mind and come back for another session.
What do you do in therapy? Being a therapist is more than just sitting on the couch and typing text messages at night. Instead, you need to take an active role in helping your clients address their issues, as well as helping them learn how to effectively work through their problems so that they can live a satisfying life.
To help you become a good therapist, it helps to be physically and psychologically healthy. Working with your clients requires attention to detail, and mental acuity. It also helps to be physically fit, as being malnourished or out of shape puts your clients at risk for injury. Finally, practice compassion, as your clients can tell you when they are feeling hurt. When you practice compassion in your relationship with your clients, you will show them that you are there to help them whenever they need it most.