Counselling West Bridgford


How to Approach Therapy

Private therapy is a significant investment in yourself, so I imagine you want to make the most of it, and that might include thinking about how to approach therapy appointments.

The following are a few notes based on my experience over the years with clients and how they have made the most of their time with me.  I cover how to prepare for sessions, mindset, reading around the topic, the relationship with your therapist, and work between sessions.

The following is in reference to one-to-one therapy.  There’s a separate article for prepping for couples therapy.

Preparing for Appointments

I’m often asked by clients how best prepare for their appointments.

Therapy appointments with me don’t have an agenda or formal format.  You will be creating your own agenda, with my help.  My role is to help you shape your therapy, using my knowledge and experience, but you’re in charge of the topics we discuss and the pace we explore them at.

Some clients like to prepare a list of things to discuss, or reflections they want to share – they can be written down or just a mental list.  Others like to come along and see what emerges.

There are benefits to both.  A list can give you a sense of making the most of your time, whereas seeing how it goes allows for ‘edge of awareness’ thoughts and feelings to emerge.  A mixture of the two gives you the benefit of both.

You’ll find most therapists will have a similar approach to me, with the exception of certain therapeutic approaches e.g. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).  You’ll be able to find out the way a therapist works from their website or directory profile.


As with most things, the mindset you approach therapy with makes a difference.

A sense of curiosity for your own psychological processes and openness to discovery will certainly lead to faster progress.  That can be easier said than done though.  Often there can be unpalatable truths, or ideas that are at odds with society’s norms, and they can be difficult to face.

I tend to think a great approach to take is one of an investigative journalist, a researcher who wants to make sense of issues and learn what lies at the root of a problem, or an adventurer that wants to make new discoveries about what it means to be authentic.

Reading around the topic

It’s a great idea to read around the topic of the subjects you’re exploring in therapy.  New research results are published all the time, with neuroscience in particular making exciting discoveries.  There are videos and podcasts too that hold a wealth of helpful information.

I recommend you maintain a sense of ‘healthy scepticism’ when reading articles that aren’t backed up by strong research or if they are an opinion piece.  It’s a good idea to look for several sources by different authors, or to check against sources you already know to be reliable.

Psychology Today often has lots of free articles that are easy to read and understand, as a starting point.  I often have books I can recommend, and am always keen to hear if you discover something I haven’t seen before.

It’s great to discuss in your therapy what you’ve discovered, and to explore the impact it had on you and how you feel it applies to your situation.

Relationship with your therapist

It might seem strange to think that a significant part of the work is done in the relationships between you and your therapist.

Boundaries, understanding, acceptance, a space to explore, and validation are just some of the qualities you can expect to experience with a good therapist.  Add to that asking for what you’d like from your therapist and disagreeing with us when we get something wrong – it’s all part of the work.

It’s a space where you can test out how it feels to be vulnerable in a safe relationship, and I encourage you to try it out.  It might take time to trust your therapist, particularly if you have a history of difficult, hurtful or traumatic relationships, or if the topics you want to discuss feel overwhelming.  And that’s ok.  I will say take your time, but also try to challenge yourself.  A phrase I use is “test your edges” – a place that feels a little bit scary or uncomfortable, but not so challenging that it becomes overwhelming or unmanageable.

Work between sessions

It can surprise some clients that often the change happens outside of the room, between appointments.  A conversation we have, or a question I ask will “percolate” over the week, and you may have some realisations as you go about your day. 

In terms of specific homework, I might send an article to read / listen to / watch, but that’s rare, and there’s no formal homework set by me to complete.

You may choose to set yourself homework if there’s something really specific and manageable that you have time and space to commit to.  But otherwise, your brain will be busy processing what happened in your appointment anyway, so it’s not as though you aren’t working.

Some therapists, depending on the therapy model they use, may set homework.  You’ll be able to find out the way they work from their profile or website.

A final note

I hope those few notes are helpful as you prepare yourself to get the most out of your one-to-one therapy. 

Having said all of that, it feels important to say that you can simply turn up and see what happens, and that really is ok.

Whether it’s me or another accredited psychotherapist you’re starting therapy with, there’s a warm welcome waiting for you.

Perhaps I’ll see you soon.

one to one

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