How to Get a Gold Star in Therapy


Girl wiith gold star trophy

Your Guide to Therapy Success, One Session at a Time

Is it cool to go to therapy now? The popularity of having a therapist has experienced a big  surge in recent years, marking a profound shift in societal attitudes towards mental health  and well-being. You may have noticed therapy memes like, “my date’s red flag is they  haven’t been to therapy,” the common use of therapy language like “gaslighting” or  “boundaries” in daily conversations, or how movies and tv shows will highlight a main  character’s therapy sessions. 

Despite therapy being so common, research reveals Americans continue to experience  declining mental health. Currently, 1 in 5 Americans receive mental health care of some  sort, while 1 in 8 people are taking antidepressants.  

TIME magazine recently published an article on how antidepressant medications are not a  quick fix to mental health symptoms and the poor quality of care that comes out of short  appointments with medical providers who do not take the time to understand the patients  and their problems.  

This data continues to pave the way for therapy as a gold standard for mental health  treatment. There are many factors that contribute to the effectiveness of therapy which is  why we created a guide for therapy success to unlock a healing journey worthy of a gold  star.  

Practical Tips to Make Every Session Count  

When you decide to embark on a journey of self-discovery, you are taking a significant step  toward better mental health. To ensure you make the most of your therapy experience, it is  essential to approach each session with intention and commitment.  

While therapists provide guidance and support, therapy is a collaborative effort. As a client,  you also have a set of roles and responsibilities to ensure the effectiveness of treatment. 

Here are 8 practical tips to make every session count: 

  1. Find a therapist who specializes in what you want to work on or matches a  part of your identity.  Though it can feel daunting and overwhelming at the beginning, doing your  homework to find a therapist who specializes in what you want to work on in  therapy will be key. For example, do you want to learn how to cope with a mid career shift? Or perhaps you need support for coping with a new diagnosis.  Whatever the case may be, learn more about the therapist’s background and  specialty.

    Additionally, representation matters. And it is no different in the therapy room.  Therapist matching can take many forms, such as racial, queer identity, culture, age,  or gender. Clients who feel that their therapist holds a similar identity to them can  naturally enhance the therapist-client relationship. 

    Be sure to review therapist profiles, backgrounds, specialties, or certifications to  learn how your therapist can match what you need. 

  1. Establish trust and rapport.
    Building a strong alliance with your therapist is crucial. A few ways to know if you  have a good relationship with your therapist is if you look forward to attending your  sessions, conversation is natural, there is an ease in talking to each other, and you feel comfortable sharing openly and honestly.

    Be sure to ask questions, share your concerns, and be honest about your feelings and  thoughts. Trust me when I say, therapists prefer if you are forthcoming with  information. Therapists are trained to listen without judgement and offer guidance  based on your unique needs. 

    When there is trust and rapport, therapy becomes a safe space for you to explore  your emotions and experiences. 


  1. Set clear goals.
    Begin your first few sessions by defining your goals for therapy. It can be easy to get  lost in storytelling or ranting about stress. But remember, what are you hoping to  achieve? Whether it is managing anxiety, overcoming past trauma, or improving  your self-esteem, having clear objectives will help you and your therapist stay  focused on what is most important to you.  
  1. Learn how the therapist measures symptom reduction.
    At the intake, a therapist will have you fill out paperwork. In those forms, you may  see some questionnaires for symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other conditions.  These typically help the therapist better understand the severity of your symptoms.

    These questionnaires can be taken every few weeks or months to keep track of your  symptoms and progress. Feel free to ask your therapist how they monitor and  measure symptoms to ensure you are on the right track to improving your health. 

    And it is important to note, progress in therapy can show up in other forms as well,  such as feeling calmer, less arguments with your partner, or more regulated sleep. Overall, the goal is to see your behavior change in a way that aligns with your goals.  


  1. Actively participate.
    As stated before, therapy is a collaborative effort. Instead of passively listening or  waiting until “the right time,” actively engage in the process. Ask questions, take  notes, seek clarification, bring up different examples, and provide feedback. The  more you participate, the more you will gain from each session. 
  1. Practice the skills between sessions.
    Therapy skills are not confined to just the therapy office. Carry the insights and  strategies you learned into your daily life.

    You can collaborate on creating homework assignments, so you have clear steps on  how to practice your skills.  

  1. Maintain consistency.
    Life will get busy and stressful. It is common to not feel great before each session;  however, the days you feel the worst can be the days you need therapy the most.

    Consistency is the key to success. When beginning therapy, think of what your  schedule will look like months in advance. If you anticipate a lot of interruptions in  your schedule, perhaps it is not the best time to start therapy. 

    Be sure to share your schedule with your therapist, attend your sessions regularly  and stick to the discussed treatment plan. 

  1. Patience and celebrations.
    Progress takes time. It can be hard to find immediate results when habits or negative  thoughts have been deeply ingrained. Growth involves periods of discomfort and  uncertainty. You can rise above the challenges with patience and consistency.

    Also, be sure to recognize and celebrate your achievements (big or small) along the  way. Acknowledging your progress can boost motivation and keep you engaged in  the therapeutic process.

Therapy can be a transformative journey, but its success depends on your active  involvement and commitment. By finding a therapist who matches your needs, setting clear  goals, building trust, and practicing the skills taught in therapy, you are taking the steps to  get the gold star. 

To find a mental health professional or to get started with a therapy intake, visit OC Health  Psychologists today.