Have you ever experienced a lull in your progress or disconnect from your coach or therapist?
For some people, having one unproductive session is enough to make them seek a new professional or give up entirely. If trust and rapport were not established, then certainly it makes sense to find someone who is a better fit. If, however, you simply feel a bit out of sync and want to get back in the groove with your coach or therapist, there are some practices you can incorporate into your sessions that can elevate and recharge the relationship. These are beneficial for anyone starting coaching/therapy, too!
I have four suggestions for getting more out of your coaching or therapy sessions. These come from my experiences as both a therapy client and in my role as an integrative mental health coach.
Begin each session with a declaration or prayer. For me, I said (out loud) that I trusted my therapist, I was open to receiving their guidance and I was confident that the work we did together was for my highest good.
This declaration works on the conscious and subconscious levels. Not only was I consciously stating my intention to have a productive session, but subconsciously, I was telling my adrenal system (the fight-flight-freeze response) that I was safe and there was no need to be anxious or afraid. I found that when I opened my sessions with this practice, I was able to convey my thoughts and feelings more honestly and directly, and was open to seeing different perspectives that I previously resisted.
I believe that overall, the relationship with my therapist benefitted from this practice, too. The energy between us flowed more easily and I felt a deeper connection on the energetic and spiritual levels.
State right up front what you want to achieve during the session. For example, if you’re seeing a coach to work on anxiety issues, you might say, “In this session, I want to better understand why my anxiety is triggered in these specific situations and some methods for reducing the anxiety in the moment.”
Why is this important? Because most coaching/therapy is designed to be client centered, meaning that the client takes the lead on what issues need to be discussed in the session. Sometimes, without having a specific intention, it’s easy to get lost in sharing details of unrelated incidents and feelings.
I often got sidetracked during my sessions. Five or ten minutes might pass while I shared something irrelevant that happened to my husband or a story I heard on TV. My therapist waited patiently to see where my rambling would lead. Eventually, one of us would get the session back on track, yet I would often leave feeling like I had wasted precious time. When I began the sessions by stating my objective right up front, it enabled me to stay more focused and helped my therapist to help me stay on track, too.
Ask questions. Mental health professionals are trained in what’s called active listening and motivational interviewing. It’s their job to ask the client questions that will invoke deeper self-awareness, identify unhealthy behavior patterns and uncover new ways of thinking that will lead to a happier, healthier life. As a coach I can tell you that it’s not an easy task. But once I learned these skills in my IHC training, I realized that I could employ them as a client and that by asking my therapist questions, I was making their job of helping me even easier.
For example, after relaying a situation I was having difficulties with, I asked, “What am I not seeing here?” or “Does this seem like a situation I’ve been repeatedly attracting?” Their response always came back to me in the form of a question, but my questions gave us more direction and allowed us to get to the heart of the matter more easily and quickly.
Make time for a recap and feedback at the end of the session. This helps ensure that subsequent sessions are more productive. Set a timer for five minutes before the end of the session so you can recap the main points of what was achieved and what the next steps are. This helps, too, in addressing whether your intended goal for the session was reached and if not, why not. Perhaps a bigger issue came to light. Or perhaps, despite your intentions, you weren’t actually ready to discuss what you thought you wanted to.
Providing your coach/therapist with feedback will also give them guidance on how to better serve you. It might be something as simple as asking them to close the blinds so you aren’t distracted by the street traffic. You might share with them something you like about their style of coaching, so they know to continue doing it. Likewise, if there is something that doesn’t work for you, it’s important to share that as well. For example, you might say, “I get frustrated when you use slang because I don’t always understand what you mean. Can you please try and avoid using it?” Or, “I don’t feel like we made much progress today. Is there something we can do differently next week?”
You invest a lot of time, money and energy into your coaching/therapy. By incorporating these four practices, you involve yourself more in the process of your own healing. You’ll experience more productive sessions and feel more confident in the direction your coaching or therapy is going.