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Maximizing mental health through therapy.

The Gym For Your Mental Health

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Getting The Most Out Of Therapy

If you’ve never had therapy, what image do you have of it? Perhaps you imagine a bearded and bespectacled man in a suit, impassively making notes on a clipboard. Perhaps you imagine an empathetic woman, with tissues and camomile tea on standby.

The reality is: the experience of therapy can vary, a lot.

In its results, too! Sometimes we may try therapy and think “well that was a waste of time and money”. Sometimes we may try therapy and it’ll change our life.

So… Is there any way to make it less of a lottery?

First: knowledge is power

And while the therapist-client relationship certainly shouldn’t be a power struggle, you do want to be empowered.

So, read about different styles of therapy, and also, read some how-to guides for self-therapy. We’ve recommended some before in previous editions of 10almonds; you can check those books out here:

This will serve two purposes:

  • You’ll know what to expect out of a therapist
  • You can more efficiently “get to work” in therapy

It also, of course, could help you already, without even going to therapy!

Second: begin with the end in mind

A person who does not know what they want to get out of therapy, will likely not get much out of therapy. Or rather, their first task will be to figure that out. So, figure it out in advance, if you can.

Maybe you have a problem that has a specific name, for example poor self-esteem, anxiety, stress, depression, trauma, neuroticism, phobia, etc.

This isn’t Alcoholics Anonymous, and in this case you don’t want a lifetime of “Hello, my name is ______ and I have ______”, if you can help it.

So, what do you want?

  • Maybe you want to be able to go to social events without feeling anxious
  • Maybe you want your relationship(s) to be more secure and fulfilling
  • Maybe you want to no longer have nightmares about that traumatic thing
  • Maybe you want to be able to greet each day’s tasks with confidence and without overwhelm


A good therapist will help you to set such goals (if you haven’t already), and attain them.

If you’re going the self-therapy route, then this is your job now!

It will probably start with the question: imagine that everything currently troubling you is now healed.

What would that look like, to you?

Third: get a good match for you

Unless you are going entirely the self-therapy route (which can work for some), you will want a therapist who’s a good match for you.

It may take a degree of “suck it and see” trial runs before you find the right one, but that takes time and money, so you’ll want to streamline the process as much as you can. If you do this well, you may be able to find a good therapist for you first time.

For this, personal recommendations (such as from friends) may help more than exmaining academic and institutional affiliations.

Yes, you want a well-qualified therapist who is a member in good standing of a respectable regulated body… but whether your therapist is easy for you to “get on with” will matter at least as much as whether their approach is psychodynamic, or 4th wave CBT, or IFS, or whatever seems popular in your time and place.

Bear in mind:

  • Some therapists are specialized in helping with some kinds of things and not others. It will obviously help if the therapist you choose is specialized in the thing you are seeking help for.
  • Some therapists may be able to relate to you better (or not), based on simple factors of who they are. To this end, while your therapist certainly doesn’t have to be a mirror image of you, factors like age, gender, race, etc can be relevant and may be worth considering, depending on what you are seeking help with, and what factors impact that thing.

Prefer keeping things to yourself?

Therapy isn’t for everyone, but having a good relationship with oneself definitely is. You might want to invest in one of the books whose reviews we linked above, and you might also get value from previous Psychology Sunday articles, which you can find in our archive (every seventh edition here has a Psychology Sunday main feature):

Click Here To Check Out The 10almonds Archive

To borrow the catchphrase of Dr. Kirk Honda (a therapist and therapy educator with decades of experience):

❝Take care of yourself, because you deserve it; you really, really do.❞

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