Is something not feeling right to you? After that last session, did you leave feeling off somehow?
Is there something bothering you in therapy? Something not going as well as you'd like? If there is something you would like to be different about therapy, you have the right to request changes! In this post I'll walk you through step-by-step how to determine if you should make a change.
Ask Yourself What Happened
Communication, especially when unhappy or dissatisfied, can be really hard for some people but it does not have to be. Therapy is a fantastic place to try something new and practice a new skill. So take a deep breath and read on.
Before We Get Started, A Word.
Just as a reminder, if your therapist has behaved in an unethical way, you have the right to terminate therapy right away (and other rights, like reporting them to the state ethics board). But if the issue is more about the style or content of the therapy sessions, requesting change might be quite helpful.
Why to Request a Change in Therapy
As a therapist, I am always happy to hear out requests for change. I want to know if I’ve hurt someone’s feelings, have not been giving enough attention to a particular issue, focusing on the wrong things, or not doing enough of something.
This is part of being honest in therapy. The therapy relationship is (or at least it certainly should be) a safe place for a person to practice being honest. Requests that are presented in a simple, respectful way are easy to formulate and can be really helpful to you in getting what you want out of therapy.
How Four Steps to Requesting Change
Here is a path to simple, straightforward communication.
Step 1. Alert Your Therapist At the Beginning of Session
While it's tempting to halfheartedly mumble something under your breath on your way out of the session, please don't. At the end of the session, the therapist has no chance of really addressing the problem.
It helps to first alert your therapist about an incoming important discussion. You can do this right before the session starts. Something like "Hey, nice to see you. I want to talk about something with you before we start."
Step 2. State the problem
The problem is usually clear. It’s usually easy to figure out what is upsetting or aggravating, but just in case, take some time to think about the problem and try to be very specific.
For example, if you want to focus on quitting smoking and it's been four sessions and you're still not getting help with that, the problem is "I need help on quitting smoking and we haven't talked about that at all."
Step 3. State the impact of the problem on you (this is optional)
Sometimes adding in a sentence like “I am feeling really aggravated.” or "I am dreading talking to you because I'm afraid you're not listening to me." can help you feel heard and emphasize that it is a really big problem for you.
Step 4. Make a request
This is your opportunity for you to figure out what you really want, and ask for it directly.
For example, "I'd like to focus on skills to help me quit smoking and I do not want to talk about other parts of my life right now."
TL;DR In order to get what you want out of therapy, sometimes you have to be willing to speak up!