The Insightful Client: Getting the Most out of Therapy

One of the best things about engaging in therapy for yourself is having a trusting relationship with a person that can hold the mirror up for you, to help you see things that  are emotionally eclipsed in your own awareness.

However, if you’re a client like me, you probably already have a list of things prepared to talk to your counselor about before you enter the room. You’ve thought about the things that went well, the things that didn’t, and all sorts of feelings/happenings that occurred since your last session. This list of “things” may serve several purposes, like helping you to optimize your time (and MONEY!) in session, to follow through on homework assigned by your counselor, or it may serve as a coping mechanism, to alleviate some of the generalized anxiety that you may experience related counseling.

 Insight, or a feeling of heightened personal awareness, is usually achieved through thoughtful, probing questions and vulnerable dialogue with your partner-in-healing. Achieving insight during and/or after your session can be liberating, challenging, and/or just plain hard (and sometimes, it feels like all of these at the same time). While the process of gaining insight is extremely powerful in therapy, for folks who are already(somewhat) insightful prior to beginning the therapeutic process, counseling may feel a little different.

For example, insightful clients may already know why they do/feel/speak/react in certain ways, which can be half of the battle in session (and afterwards). If you find yourself in this space, PLEASE know that you are NOT alone. I have found that (in my own healing) and in doing healing work with others, that folks who are insightful prior to counseling sometimes talk themselves out of going, because they feel that they don’t really need it. “If I already know how/why I feel/act this way, why am I here? What else is there to gain?”

Well, for all of my insightful clients, here are some tips from one client (and counselor) to another:

1. Check-ins are healthy.

One of the biggest myths that keeps people (particularly Black women who are used to self-sacrificing) from seeking therapeutic services is feeling that, “nothing is really wrong. Someone who really needs this space should have it”. Well, just think about purchasing your dream vehicle. If you have a really good mechanic, they’ll probably tell you to bring your (dream) car in at specified time periods throughout the year, so that they can check your car for any minor issues before they become bigger concerns. Hear me loud and clear, sis: Your mental wellness is so much more valuable than any vehicle. Please know that you DO NOT have to be in crisis or experiencing present-trauma in order to get your healing.

2.  Be open to other interpretations.

If you are already insightful, you probably have a clear understanding of your motivations, emotions, reactions, etc. However, your counselor may have a different (i.e., challenging, alternative) perspective and/or interpretation. Try to remain open to your counselor’s insights, as it is their job to help you heal yourself.

3. Share your insights and OWN them.

Don’t be afraid to tell your counselor what you think/feel/know is going on with you. For Black women, a huge piece of this is being able to name, define, and own our own experiences, without someone else (i.e., society, co-workers, supervisors, professors) telling us how we should feel, think, speak, or react.  Remember, YOU are the expert of your own experience and NO ONE can take that away from you.

4. Validation and affirmation are meaningful goals.

Sometimes, we just want somebody to talk with, hear our stories, and validate us. There is nothing at all wrong with wanting/needing to feel affirmed in your thoughts, feelings, and/or experiences. Don’t deny yourself the right to personal affirmation, sis. If you feel that you need/want to talk to someone (and have the access/means to do so), do it. You are so worth it!

Are you the insightful client? Have you experienced any of the challenges that I shared here? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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