How To Get The Most Out Of Individual Therapy

How to get the most out of individual therapy at the Center for Growth: you have made an important decision: to invest in yourself so that can become the person you have always wanted to be. By following a few suggestions, you can get the maximum benefit from your work with a therapist in Philadelphia.

In therapy at the Center for Growth / Sex therapy in Philadelphia, both the client and the therapist have jobs to do.Your job is to define who you want to become. Like a good coach, the therapist’s job is to help you reach your goals. Therapists have many, many tools to help you  achieve greater happiness and satisfaction in your life — and those tools work best when you are ready to make changes in your  life.

Are You Ready for Individual Therapy (not Magic)?

Individual Therapy works best when you’re ready for the commitment and up to the challenge.So are you ready? Are you distressed about the problems in your life? Are you eager to feel better? Are you excited about the possibilities of what could be? Are you motivated to make changes? Or do you just want to click your heels and reap the rewards? Keep in mind that therapy is not magic. To use a classroom analogy, if you merely audit a class, attend sporadically, and don’t do your homework assignments, how much will you really learn?If you’re ready to make your happiness a priority, you’re ready for therapy.

Initial Tasks of Individual Therapy

While the overall goal of individual therapy is the very vague “to be happier,” you may not have any idea what that means for you  yet. That’s okay.Your therapist can help you break down your overall goal into smaller, achievable goals. When you start         therapy, your therapist can help you clarify what’s not working  in your life. Specifically, your therapist will help you  increase your clarity about:

  • The scope and impact of your presenting problem
  • Your beliefs about the presenting problem
  • The kind of changes you want to make
  • The kind of life you want to build
  • The kind of person you aspire to be in order to build the kind of life you want
  • Your blocks to becoming the kind of  person you aspire to be
  • The skills and knowledge necessary to achieve your goals

Your Responsibilities

While having a good therapist is important, what you do with the therapist is just as important.  Individual Therapy is not  passive.It requires your active participation, motivation and  commitment. Clients who work hard at helping themselves are more  likely to have successful therapy outcomes .To use the classroom  analogy again, a teacher (in this case your therapist) can  direct a student (in this case you), but the student’s mastery of the material depends upon his/her willingness to be open to learning new concepts, practice new skills, take risks, and  apply himself/herself to the subject (in this case, bettering your life).

During your individual therapy sessions, try to:

  • Give your therapist access to the real you. This means being totally honest and vulnerable.
  • Rip down the walls you’ve built to protect yourself. Only when you stop hiding behind those  walls and instead reveal your true thoughts and feelings can  you can get honest, useful feedback.
  • Give your therapist feedback. Tell  him/her about how you experience the session, what’s helpful/unhelpful, and your reactions to both the therapist and the therapy in general. Providing this feedback enables your therapist to better meet your needs.
  • Think critically about your sessions,  and feel free to question your therapist’s instructions, skills, and motives.
  • Periodically ask your therapist to assess your progress with you (if your treatment is longer-term).

You can maximize the benefit you get from your therapy by devoting time to your growth between sessions, as well. Between sessions try to:

  • Complete any assignments
  • Reflect on your session
  • Keep a journal about your ideas, feelings, experiences, insights, new concepts, outcomes of new behaviors, etc.Keeping a journal provides both short-term and long-term benefits. In the short term, journaling helps you organize your thinking, cement your  understanding, and highlight new goals. In the long term, periodically reviewing your journal enables you to see how much you’ve changed and progressed over time.

Prepare for Your Sessions at the Center for Growth / Sex Therapy in Philadelphia

By following these suggestions, you can make the best use of the time you spend with your therapist. It’s useful to approach each   session as you would an important business meeting.That means arriving on time and arriving prepared.

There are several mistakes people often make in therapy. The first is showing up without a plan. This is when you ask your therapist “what do you want to talk about today?” and the therapist will respond, “What do you want to talk about?” While this blank slate approach may open some interesting doors, it is a hit or miss process.

The second is the stream-of-consciousness approach.This happens when the focus of the session is on whatever happens to be on your mind at that moment.Again, while such discussions can be  interesting, they may not be the best use of your time.

The third is discussing the problem of the moment or the problem you had since the last session.   Discussing a recent problem can be quite useful, but only when you also explore with your therapist what it means to you, what  you can learn from it, and what larger pattern it reveals.

Here is a more useful approach to your sessions. Before every meeting, try to:

  • Reflect on your goals for being in therapy
  • Think about the next step you want to take to get closer to reaching your goals
  • complete your homework


To create the life you really want, you will have to prioritize your therapy and your growth. This looks different for each person, but may mean spending some of your free time differently, tolerating temporary emotional discomfort in the  name of lasting change, and being open to change — even if it’s scary.

Spend Time on You

In addition to attending your weekly 50-minute sessions, you may  want to carve out time between sessions to practice new skills, write down your insights, and reflect upon your sessions. The more you practice incorporating changes into your life, the more   likely you’ll be to notice results. The time you devote to your growth may be time stolen from other important areas of your  life, such as your social life and/or your professional life,  but investing now in yourself can make your social and  professional experiences more enjoyable in the end.

If, however, you don’t have a spare moment to devote to the process outside of attending your sessions, don’t worry. When you devote 50 minutes every week to exploring  your problem and improving your situation, you will see results. By simply incorporating small behavioral changes into your daily routine, you will have a different experience.

Listen to Your Discomfort

Expect emotional discomfort, as it is always part of the growth process. In therapy you will take risks, and try novel ways of thinking and behaving. Your growth depends on your ability to tolerate this discomfort. It’s crucial to choose a therapist you trust so that when discomfort strikes, you feel safe enough to let down your walls and examine the cause.

Discomfort is revealing and useful — often it signals a problem area for you, and exploring it with your therapist can be a catalyst for profound change. There is an exception, however. If your discomfort stems not from your own “stuff” but from your relationship with your therapist, it could be a red flag telling you that your therapist may not be right for you.Trust yourself on this.

Be Open to Change

You’re entering therapy for support and guidance as you make changes in your life. Since how you’ve been living (thinking, behaving, etc.) is no longer working for you, it’s time to take your life off of autopilot and try something new. If you’re with a therapist you trust, take the risk…you have nothing to lose.

Things to Think About

In this section you’ll find several statements intended to get you thinking. These statements (listed in no particular order) may help you better understand your problem, provide you with language to help you discuss your problem, or help you articulate your goals.

  • Effective change requires insight and action. Action without insight is thoughtless. Insight  without action is passive.
  • Everything you do works for some part of you, even if other parts of you don’t like it.
  • The hardest part of therapy is not only recognizing the actual behaviors that you should be  taking to make the desired changes, but actually implementing them.
  • Take responsibility for your role in creating and maintaining your problems.
  • We are all responsible for how we  express ourselves, no matter how others treat us. You have  the person power to be in control of yourself. Don’t give away that power.
  • You are quite limited in your ability to change others.  Accepting this is a huge step toward maturity and peace. For example, if your employer is an angry person, and the anger makes it difficult for you to enjoy your work, there’s not much you can do to change  him/her. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have choices. You could initiate a conversation with him/her about how the anger impacts your job satisfaction. You could focus on you  and your work instead of focusing on the anger. You could even choose to change jobs. Recognize that the only person you truly have the ability to change is yourself. When you stop wasting your time and emotions focusing on what’s wrong with other people, you’ll be much better off.
  • All problems are maintained and perpetuated by how you think, how you feel, and how you behave. Making changes in any one of these areas can bring about changes in the other two. For example, if you think nobody cares about you, and you feel unworthy, you may reject others’ efforts to be with you, or dismiss any evidence that you are cared about. To change this, shifting your thinking to believing that you are cared about will  increase your feelings of worth and allow you to see the proof all around you. This reflects an intervention in your thinking. Interventions can also be made in your feelings or your behaviors with similar results.
  • Every adult should be 100% responsible for themselves, and 0% responsible for another  adult (with the exception of when an adult in your life is not capable of taking care of him/herself due to age, illness, disability, etc.). Over-responsibility and under-responsibility are self-destructive.
  • Remember to be patient with yourself — change takes time. It’s much like exercising or changing your diet — change happens incrementally. Stick with it and you will see results.
  • Not every therapist will be ideal for  you. Make sure your therapist is professional, appropriate, and a good fit for you. Trust your feelings on this. If  something feels wrong to you, it probably is. If you need guidance on finding a therapist, refer to the article “Choosing a Therapist”.

Adapted from “How To Get The Most From Couples Therapy” by Ellen Bader, Ph.D.  and Peter Pearson, Ph.D.