Just like parents deny they have favorite kids, therapists deny they have favorite clients. (Did I just admit that?!) What makes a favorite client probably isn’t what you think. Clients that are “easy” to work with aren’t the ones without heavy issues. They aren’t the ones that think everything the therapist says is brilliant. It’s really about how both the therapist and the client show up and commit to the work.
To help understand how to be a therapist’s favorite client, I created a list! Everyone loves a list right?!
Think about it!
We have an hour together maybe once a week. We can only do so much in that short time frame. So take some time to think about what you want to work on during the session before the session.
Sometimes clients like to start sessions by sharing about the past week. Its a time to reflect on situations and interactions that we often breeze by because our days go so fast. Reflection is a hugely helpful skill!
If you are busy and end up rushing into the session, that’s fine. I will likely ask you shortly into the weekly download what stands out or is the most important piece of the story. Then we can focus on it in the session.
Sometimes clients come in and we sit together for 2 mins in silence and they “arrive” in the room. I love this time because it also allows me separate from what I was working on in a previous session and it allows both of us to tune in, and create an atmosphere of safety as we start our work.
However you choose, doing some prep work to know what you are interested in focusing on the day of your session can make the most of our hour together.
In school, I learned best by taking notes. I always thought it was insane how teachers told you the answers in class! All you had to do was write down everything they said! I still do this in session and I have seen it help clients tremendously to take their own notes.
I get that its not everyone’s jam to write stuff down. Sometimes people are worried another person will find their inner most thoughts and feelings if they are transcribed. But, it allows you to take the experiences in the session and use them to build upon outside the session. Clients are always asking me how to keep the momentum of the session going. This is one way!
Plus, writing things down is a way for our brains to register that this thing is important and I need to come back to it. I make notes to remember things to get at the grocery store Why wouldn’t I consider taking notes during a time dedicated to my personal growth?
Remember, you’ve made the time to come in to explore an issue that is causing you distress. Don’t let the session be just another conversation about the issue. Use your time wisely and make notes to come back to later and explore.
Work with me here!
This is about YOU. I am here to help you get to where you want to me.
I can’t do the work for you.
That seems obvious, but I know when I talk to my therapist, I want her to make shit happen for me because I often feel stuck in my patterns. She can’t. And sometimes I leave the session wondering if this whole therapy thing is working. Yes me! A therapist! So, I know a bit about what its like on the other side of the room.
Show up and help me help you.
We are in this together, at least while we are in the room together. There are many times I wish I could go outside the session and kick the person’s ass that hurt my client, but I only have the ability to help you while we are together. So see if you can be as present as possible. Be vulnerable. Be honest. Open up and share.
I am not a mind-reader nor a magician.
I wish I had the right questions and the right answers and the perfect way of healing the hurts that not so gracefully nudged you into my office. But I am just another human with some education and training on the specifics of our inner psychological workings. I can offer what I’ve got. You gotta meet me at the table.
I can stand on the sidelines and coach you to the finish line, but you are the one actually running the race.
Also, when therapists give homework…know that its because we do A LOT of studying and trainings outside of the session to keep current and something in the session reminded us of a skill that could help you. We can’t help it. We are wired to share things that we hope could be helpful.
When I give homework I might recommend books or podcasts or blogs or just make up something on the spot. If it fits, great. If not, tweak it to make it work for you and try to do it. Its practice time. You won’t be graded, but I will follow up. Homework is a way to extend the work we are doing out in the real world.
Again, its up to you. Your growth and change is directly proportional to the amount of work you put in to the session.
I mean, really? Just tell me what you want?!
I am not a behavioral therapist, so goals often make me feel closed in and set off my perfectionism. However, because therapy can easily go into the ethereal past, or off on tangents (especially if a current issue takes precedence), its super helpful to know what you are wanting to get out of doing the work.
Guidelines for goals:
Be specific. Most of my clients come in wanting relief from anxiety or depression. On our phone consult before the first session is scheduled I always ask what they are wanting to happen from our sessions. “I just want to feel better” is too vague. It’s obviously what we are hoping for when we make the call to start therapy, but honing in on what “better” looks like in your life is helpful.
-I want to learn how to say “no” without feeling so guilty.
-I want to stop drinking.
-I want to stop being so harsh with myself.
Starting therapy can be confusing because so much has happened before you sit down on the couch. Client’s often don’t know where to begin. It might take a few sessions to get clarity about what you really want to work on. Finding a focal point or target issue allows us to have a baseline to frequently assess if we are on the right path.
Win at all costs!
In other words, set yourself up for success.
Schedule appointments when you can get there without a ton of interference.
A therapist’s dream is to be able to meet with clients weekly. Its the best way to change habits. Its not always possible due to finances or schedules. Just know that if you meet with someone monthly, most of that time will be used to get back to the place you were in the previous session. Client’s want results as quickly as possible. Consistency is important.
Don’t expect miracles! Ugh. I hate to say this but unraveling well-worn habits and patterns takes time. This won’t be like an ER visit where you rush in and are barely hanging on and then you get a shot of morphine and you are good to go. Its gonna take some time.
And while I wish for EVERY SINGLE SESSION to be profound and inspiring and healing and life altering…in reality we are slowly chipping away at a pattern that has been established well before we met.
Keeping a Success Journal is helpful. Any little thing that shifts or changes can be cataloged so you can look back and see how far you have come.
Spill the beans!
For some people it takes time to trust the therapist. Totally get that. For me, I am an open book. Give me someone to listen and I am off and running.
See if you can open up. See if you can view this time as YOUR time and be selfish! Put it out there. Use your time! Most of us don’t have someone that is completely dedicated to their evolution in such a personal and intimate way. Don’t let that freak you out though. It does take time to get things going and see change, but you gotta let me in a little for it to happen.
I am going to show up curious. I can ask questions all day long. But those are MY curiosities. I want to know what YOU are wanting. If you are like a hostile witness and don’t meet me halfway, then it’s going to take longer and it might be frustrating. Take advantage of this dedicated time for yourself.
And be honest. As much as vulnerability is uncomfortable, if I don’t know what you are struggling with, I can’t help. Its understandable to diminish unhealthy habits when you are in front of someone asking how much you really drink every night. But, I promise, I am not here to judge. Easy to read, another thing to feel and believe. But without the correct information I am going to go off on a tangent and the end goal may be prolonged. And believe me, we are ALL human. I do stupid shit too. I fall into unhealthy patterns too. I wish it was helpful to share those with you, but it’s not about me! Just know that I am not a saint, so you can be human too.
How’s it going?
It’s important to take the temperature of the work every so often.
Since this is about you and not what I think you should be doing, it’s really important for you to stop and reflect on where we have been and where we are going. I could be way off base about something. You gotta tell me!
It’s so important to take time to see if my approach is working for you. I am not a fit for everyone. Unfortunately, it can take a handful of sessions to figure this out. If that is the case and thing aren’t going where you would like, please tell me. I will not be offended. I can find someone that can be more effective, or we can just punt and start again.
Being mine, or any therapist’s favorite client boils down to showing up and making an effort. The same is true for most places where we want to see change in our lives. With things that are important to us, we make the effort, and we don’t expect immediate gratification.
I can say, for myself, my favorite clients are people that show up on time, are dedicated to the work we are doing together (no matter how intense or complex), respect the office policies, meet me halfway and are willing to get uncomfortable.
Therapy is weird. Well, let’s say it’s a “unique” relationship. I don’t know another relationship where a person can have a dedicated time to explore their personal concerns with someone that cares, is fully present, challenges them, loves them, suspends judgment, is consistent and truly wants relief for them.
So as you review this list just know, not everyone is going to check off all these qualities or behaviors. And really…no one sucks as a therapy client. So you can’t fail. I promise. If any of these are stumbling blocks, it might be a sign to talk to your therapist and/or find someone else that can help you better. We aren’t one size fits all. If you just can’t open up and share, look at that. Ask yourself why and if you don’t feel safe enough with that particular therapist, try someone else. You get the picture. You are in charge of how therapy goes.
Hope this has helped and given you a little peek into the mind of your human therapist that only wants the best for you!