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How to Get the Most Out Counseling

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

Mental health counseling is an effective way for individuals to improve their emotional well-being and cope with a variety of mental health challenges. Different types of therapy are available, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and interpersonal therapy. While seeking mental health counseling is a crucial first step, it is equally important to ensure that the therapy is effective and provides the maximum benefit to the individual. In this paper, we discuss several strategies to help individuals get the most out of their mental health counseling experience.

Importance of Finding the Right Counselor

One of the most important factors in achieving success in therapy is developing a strong therapeutic alliance with the counselor. This involves building a positive relationship with the therapist, which can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the therapy (1). To find the right counselor, individuals should consider the therapist's credentials, specialties, and approach. Researching potential counselors and evaluating their qualifications and experience is essential in finding a good match. Additionally, seeking referrals from trusted sources such as primary care physicians, friends, family, or online directories can be beneficial in finding a counselor who is a good fit (2).

Establishing Clear Goals and Expectations

Setting clear goals and expectations for therapy is crucial to make progress towards recovery. Individuals should define what they hope to achieve from counseling, discuss expectations regarding the frequency and duration of sessions, and establish a treatment plan that is tailored to their needs and goals. Monitoring progress towards these goals is also essential to ensure the therapy is effective (3).

Active Participation in Therapy

Active participation in therapy is necessary for success. Individuals should engage in therapy sessions with an open and honest attitude, complete homework assignments, and practice coping skills learned in therapy outside of sessions. They should also provide feedback to the therapist about what is and isn't working in therapy to ensure that the therapy is tailored to their needs and goals (4).

Coping with Challenges in Therapy

It's important to recognize that therapy can be challenging, and individuals should prepare for and cope with these challenges. If an individual is feeling discomfort or resistance, discussing these feelings with the counselor can help them understand the experience and develop strategies to overcome the challenges. Continuing to attend sessions even when progress feels slow is also crucial to give therapy enough time to be effective (5).

Self-Care and Support Systems

Incorporating self-care practices such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones, into daily life can improve mental health and support recovery. Seeking support from friends, family, or support groups is also beneficial. Discussing any issues or concerns with the therapist is essential to ensure that they are aware of the individual's needs and can provide appropriate support (6).


Mental health counseling is a valuable resource for individuals struggling with mental health challenges. To get the most out of therapy, individuals should find the right counselor, establish clear goals and expectations, actively participate in therapy, cope with challenges, and prioritize self-care and support systems. By following these strategies, individuals can enhance the effectiveness of their therapy and improve their emotional well-being.


Norcross, J. C., & Lambert, M. J. (2018). Psychotherapy relationships that work III. Psychotherapy, 55(4), 303-315. doi: 10.1037/pst0000179

American Psychological Association. (2017). How to choose a psychologist. Retrieved from

Lambert, M. J. (2013). Outcome in psychotherapy: The past and important advances. Psychotherapy, 50(1), 42-51. doi: 10.1037/a0030682

Kazdin, A. E. (2017). What I (may have) learned about psychotherapy research and practice over 50 years. American Psychologist, 72(9), 900-911. doi: 10.1037/amp000014

Wampold, B. E., & Imel, Z. E. (2015). The great psychotherapy debate: The evidence for what makes psychotherapy work (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Sánchez-Meca, J., Rosa-Alcázar, A. I., Marín-Martínez, F., & Gómez-Conesa, A. (2010). Psychological treatment of panic disorder with or without agoraphobia: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(1), 37-50. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2009.09.005

American Psychological Association. (2021). Self-care for mental health. Retrieved from

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Finding quality treatment for substance use disorders. Retrieved from

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2021). Support groups. Retrieved from

Meyer, B., Berger, T., Caspar, F., Beevers, C. G., Andersson, G., & Weiss, M. (2009). Effectiveness of a novel integrative online treatment for depression (Deprexis): Randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 11(2), e15. doi: 10.2196/jmir.1151

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