How to Get the Most out of Counseling in San Diego

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We love getting the most bang for our buck, so we want you to have to have the same in your counseling. Going to counseling in San Diego takes courage. It can be difficult to address the problems you are struggling with and open up to a therapist. It costs you time, energy, and money. It is important to maximize what you get out of the therapy, so you get maximum reward. This means not only the time you are with the therapist, but the time in between sessions.  

Solidify The Session

Counseling in San Diego is no easy task. You talk about serious and important issues in the personal counseling sessions. It’s important for what happens in therapy sessions to stick. In order to help make the most of each counseling session, journal about what you talked about. This includes the things you learned, the “a-ha” moments, any lingering questions that have come up, and the tools your therapist gives you.  Studies show that journaling after a traumatic or stressful experience leads to improvements in both physical and psychological health. A study done in New Zealand found that even physical injuries healed faster when participants journaled!

Journaling promotes critical self-awareness, helps individuals create and continuously work towards goals, and improves flexibility of thinking. Through journaling, you will better be able to encode the information and your working memory will improve. Journaling helps you process your emotions and practice mindfulness; it can even improve confidence! Not only are you solidifying the tools in your mind, but you will now have a list of the helpful information at your fingertips. This will make it more concrete. 

Bibliotherapy

Typically, you meet with your therapist for one hour a week. That’s one out of one hundred and sixty eight. There is no surprise, then, that the work will need to continue outside of the therapy room. One important tool to help keep you on track and advancing in treatment throughout the week is bibliotherapy. Ask your therapist to recommend a few books that may help you work on your counseling goals. Ask your therapist for a few options so you can see which works best for you. Counseling in San Diego (or anywhere) is a lot of work. You are in control of how much you get out of your counseling experience, and outside tools are an asset. 

We have put together a list of some books we find most beneficial here.

1-3 To Work On

After your counseling session, pick 1-3 things that you want to work on until your next session. If your session is coming to a close and you want some guidance on where to start, speak up. Ask your therapist which goals would make a good starting point. Make your goals realistic, yet obtainable. We like to call them SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time sensitive. If you are working on improving your self-esteem and you and your therapist discussed your negative self-talk, after the session, you might decide that every day you will have to find 1 positive thing to say to yourself.  This would be your work for the week that will help advance your treatment.  

Daily Check-in

Do a daily check-in on your mood, stress levels, and items you want to track.  This can be hard to get in the habit of doing, so a tool that might help is making a chart to put on your fridge, mirror, or nightstand. If you put something where you will see it, you’ll be reminded to take this time. Take a moment to stop and reflect on your day as well as how you’re feeling in that particular moment. The more you can press the pause button, reflect on your physical and emotional experience, the more you can choose how you want to go along in your day. Another tool to get started on making this a habit can be to set an alarm on your phone to remind you to pause and reflect.

By tracking your mood, stress levels, and the goals you are working towards, you can look back and reflect on how the week went. This can help you connect pieces that you might not otherwise. Keeping with the previous example, when you look back on your week you notice that you did not write down a positive thing Thursday or Friday. Upon reflection, you see that after a long day at work on Wednesday your stress levels were high. This might have lead you to losing momentum with your goal. You can start to see a pattern. Stressful day leads to low mood leads to more negative self-talk. With daily check-ins, you can catch this before they set you awry from your path. Next time you have a stressful day at work, you can catch it and instead of letting it upheave you, you might plan a self-care night. 

Get Support

It can be difficult at times to keep yourself accountable to your work, so reach out to your community for help.  Talk to your friends, family, coworkers, or partner about your weekly goals and how to keep you accountable. Making it a habit to talk about your goals can help you get the support you need.  The more you talk about the struggles, the more power you take away from them. Discussing your goals with others can also help you gain different perspectives. It is often easy to get stuck in our way of thinking. An outside perspective might be just what you need when you’re feeling stuck.  

Reflection

The day of your next counseling session, take a few moments to reflect on what worked, what didn’t work, and what you want to talk about in the sessions. This is a good time to prioritize what you want to talk about. Maybe something that seemed really important to talk about on Tuesday, now feels like less of a big deal. When you take time to reflect you will gain better insight on where you are making the most progress and where you are getting stuck. Reflecting on what worked and didn’t work throughout the week will help you become more aware of your growth and more organized for your therapy.  

 

If you want to get the most out of your counseling, know that it is possible. It just takes a few moments each day. If you need an easier way to keep it organized, try out our journal. Alternatively, you can create a google document or spreadsheet if that is more fitting to you. These will help you do all these steps in one place. How do you get the most out of your therapy? Leave a comment below so we can hear from you! 

 

About Sarah O'Leary

Currently enrolled in the master's program for marriage and family therapy at USD, I am captivated most by the importance of relationships and emotions and their impact on our everyday lives. Both relationships and our emotions help shape who we are as a person. "Relationship" doesn't just mean partner, but rather connections of all kinds. This means everything from strangers, to friends, to partners, and most importantly, the relationship you have with yourself. Emotions are what underlies our thoughts and behaviors, they are the key to understanding ourselves.