Therapy can be a mystery to many people. Those considering therapy may wonder if they need it and if it will help them. They may wonder how to go about finding the right therapist, what is discussed in the sessions, what happens in therapy, if they can really be honest, or how to know if they have reached the goals they have set.If you have never been to see a therapist before, you may have certain preconceived notions, which can stifle the therapeutic progress. You may believe myths about what therapy entails. However, therapy is so much more than lying on a couch for an hour. Below, are some easy ways to get the most out of your therapy sessions.

1. Choose carefully.

Though you may be anxious to find answers for your problems, you should still take the time to carefully choose your therapist. Research different types of counselors and the different approaches they use; selecting a provider who seems to offer what you seek. If you are not sure about your new therapist or the overall process, give it at least three sessions unless it is very clear after the first or second session that the therapist is not a good fit.

2. View therapy as a collaboration.

Therapy is an interactive process. You should be able to express your needs or ask questions during the sessions. But you should also do the “homework assignments” your therapist may give you. This may involve everything from telling your therapist what you would like to discuss during a session, brainstorming ideas for quality time, or creating a plan of action. The more you and your therapist collaborate, the more successful your outcome will be.

3. Schedule sessions at a good time.

Though you may have to finagle around time schedules that are available to you or your therapist, the goal is to schedule appointments when you can give them your full attention. For instance, avoid scheduling a session in the middle of a work day when you have to be “on” right afterward. Give yourself time and space to process and reflect on what was just discussed.

4. Say what you need to say.

Some people censor themselves in therapy for fear of judgment or appearing impolite. However, you should be able to say whatever you want, because doing so is what really leads to progress. Being a “good client” does not mean being on your very best behavior, it means being the most authentic, unfiltered version of yourself. The biggest mistake you can make is not talking to your therapist when there are things you find uncomfortable about the interaction. You may be afraid to challenge your therapist, but as a professional, your therapist should be able to handle your personal feedback.

5. Talk about therapy in therapy.

The issues you have outside of therapy often show up in sessions. This is helpful since it gives you an opportunity to practice healthy coping and relational skills in a safe environment with your therapist. An example would be that if you are normally a passive person, you can practice being assertive during your counseling sessions.

6. Set markers for change.

Most people come to therapy because they want something to change. For some, change is sometimes uncomfortable, and often hard. It is not unusual for therapy to be upsetting or to feel like it is not working. Establish markers with your counselor for positive change, so that you will be better able to track your progress and stay motivated. Markers are like signposts, positive or negative, telling you what direction you’re moving toward. These markers can include anything behavioral, emotional or attitudinal, which you can observe. For instance, this may include feeling happier or more energized, letting go of toxic people in your life, or communicating to your boss about workplace issues. Your therapist may check in with you to see how your progress is coming.

7. Have an order of operations.

Many therapists agree that you should get the business items out of the way first. This includes payments, scheduling, and insurance. It makes it easier than trying to rush through it on your way out the door or after having an emotional breakthrough during the session.Next, talk about any issues you are experiencing with your therapist. For instance, maybe your therapist angered you last week. Maybe you’d like to end therapy. Maybe you have a question about what you talked about last session. Raise these concerns in the beginning of your session, so you have plenty of time to process them. Many times, confronting your therapist can strengthen the therapeutic relationship and thus the therapy in general.

8. Do the work outside your sessions.

A typical therapy session lasts about 50 minutes; however, in order to get the most out of it, it’s important to think of therapy as 24/7. Keep a journal, reflect on your last session, prepare for your next one, and generally pay attention to your thoughts and feelings throughout the week. You’ll have much more material for your sessions, and you’ll find that you are applying the work to your everyday life. The therapist can guide you by giving you the tools you need to make these changes happen but in the end, you are the one who has to do the work.

9. Set boundaries around therapy.

Create boundaries around who you talk to about your therapy. This might mean not sharing details of your sessions with people who may judge you, gossip or give unsolicited advice. If you are not selective about what you share or to whom you share it with, you will unwittingly create an atmosphere that may be an intrusive presence in the therapy work.

10. Understand therapy may be ongoing.

One mistake most clients make during therapy is being impatient. Therapy is a process and it often takes several months, depending upon presenting issues, to gain better insight and for the therapist to fully analyze and offer solid guidance. Think of the therapist as a guide. Your “length of stay” with your therapist is not an indication of sickness. It’s merely a reflection of how you use therapy to support yourself and your life. Some people benefit from only 3 to 5 sessions. Others see a therapist for years. There are too many factors in our complicated lives to say what approach is best. And assuming that you should be “done with therapy” in a certain amount of time only hinders the therapeutic process.