How to Get the Biggest Bang Out of Your Therapy Buck

Service member in therapy sessionGoing to therapy involves commitment—a commitment to yourself to change the areas of your life that aren’t working for you, as well as a financial commitment.

As a current or potential consumer of therapy, you naturally want to get the best value you can. With psychotherapists, as with physicians, this doesn’t necessarily mean finding the person who charges the least. In fact, it is not unusual for trainees and inexperienced therapists to charge less than established therapists with a lot of experience and training.

Here are some tips for helping you navigate the waters of psychotherapy, find the right therapist, and get the best value for your money:

1. Shop Around for Therapists

This is something I recommend for anyone considering therapy. It’s helpful to talk to two or three different therapists, letting them know you are also speaking with other therapists. When you meet with a therapist you’re considering, ask questions about their background, training, and approach to therapy. If you don’t understand something, ask them to explain it to you. If a therapist is uncomfortable with this, be wary.

In the final analysis, let your heart be your guide. The most important factor in predicting a successful outcome of therapy is the quality of the relationship between the therapist and the person in therapy, known as the therapeutic relationship. Pick someone you have a rapport with and whom you feel understands you. This is a better guidepost to value than solely looking at the fee.

Therapist A may charge less than therapist B, but so what, if the former can’t get the job done?

2. Think and Talk About Your Goals for Therapy

Before meeting with a therapist, do some soul searching about what you’d like to change in your life, the steps you might need to take to get there, and how you’ll know when you’ve made these changes.

Before meeting with a therapist, do some soul searching about what you’d like to change in your life, the steps you might need to take to get there, and how you’ll know when you’ve made these changes.

For example, if you’d like to have a meaningful intimate relationship, when you have that relationship, you’ll have clearly met your goal. But there may be other steps along the way. A sub-goal might be to join an online dating site and go on two dates a week. That would serve as a signpost that you’re on the right path.

Furthermore, the thoughts and feelings that come up around the dates are important material for therapy. If you don’t take action steps toward your goals, you may never know what’s getting in your way.

Talk with therapists you’re considering about goal setting and how they view this. This is important in terms of value for service. While no therapist can honestly say how long it will take for you to reach your goal, this is a way to put some limits around the therapy, as no one wants to be in therapy forever. And it will help you and your therapist focus on what’s most important to you.

3. Make a Commitment to Yourself to Do the Work

Think of therapy in a similar way you think about taking a course. If there’s homework in the class and you don’t do the homework, you’re probably not going to learn very much.

The same holds true for therapy. Look for a therapist who gives homework assignments. Simply talking about your problems (sometimes referred to as “navel-gazing”), though helpful, may not alone produce desired outcomes.

Be willing to do the internal work suggested by the therapist, as well as to take action steps in the world. This will ultimately determine how quickly your therapy proceeds, and is therefore the greatest determinant of how much bang you get out of your therapy buck. Remember that you’re in the driver’s seat. At the end of the day, the therapist is simply a guide who holds the space for you to do the necessary work.

© Copyright 2016 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Dhyan Summers, MA, LMFT, Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Corina

    March 7th, 2016 at 8:21 AM

    If you are not willing to do your homework too, then there is very little that you will gain from the experience. yes it is about the office time with the therapist but there is more to it than just that. You have to be willing to try some new things on your own, figure out some things, and then go back and talk to your therapist about it.

  • Dhyan Summers

    March 7th, 2016 at 10:27 AM

    I agree Corina. Therapy is a collaborative effort between therapist and client.

  • kassie

    March 7th, 2016 at 3:30 PM

    Even if you have never committed to anything before in your life, to get the most out of therapy this is the one thing that you will very much need to commit to.
    this isn’t a time for you to sit back and think that someone is going to tell you what to do with your lie. they will help you, they will guide you, but it is time for you to become your own leader.

  • Dhyan

    March 7th, 2016 at 5:00 PM

    I am in complete agreement with you, Kassie.

  • Sarah

    March 8th, 2016 at 7:47 AM

    How realistic is it that we should shop aorund for a therapist when in reality most of us are referred to someone? So ultimately there are going to be times when it feels like we don’t have much choice in the matter of who we have to see.

  • Dhyan Summers

    March 8th, 2016 at 10:14 AM

    Sarah, I assume you mean referred by your insurance company? Even so, you can always ask for 3 referrals. That is standard practice and should be respected by anyone who is referring someone to you. Of course, if the referral is from a friend who you trust go ahead and see the therapist, keeping in mind, if you don’t feel comfortable with them, to seek another referral.

  • Sarah

    March 9th, 2016 at 8:08 AM

    Well or if you go to your general physician first they might make a referral to someone that they commonly work with but that still doesn’t mean that this would be the best choice or fit for you. Do you think that it is ok to ask him for three referrals as well?

  • Dhyan

    March 9th, 2016 at 11:17 AM

    Absolutely okay. It should be standard practice for health professionals.

  • sharma

    March 10th, 2016 at 10:52 AM

    My big mistake the first time that I went into therapy was that I thought that I could sit down in their office and say okay fix me and it would happen.

    I didn’t fully comprehend that I would only get out of this experience what I was willing to put into it.

    That part finally came along but I think that I could have done even more during that time had I come into it with a better idea of not only what doing therapy sessions would be all about, but how I could go even further if I was willing to make more of a contribution to the effort.

  • Dhyan Summers

    March 10th, 2016 at 12:00 PM

    Yes Sharma, what you’re saying is so true, and I think is something most people aren’t aware of when first going into therapy, which is in part why I wrote the article. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • sharma

    March 12th, 2016 at 9:07 AM

    Thanks for the forum where we can honestly and openly talk about our experiences. There was certainly a time in my own life where I did not feel free to do that at all, like it was taboo or something. I don’t know, that was just how I felt. But I think that when you finally have that experience that you have been searching for and you get a lot out of it, plus you find a supportive community like this too, it just adds to your own personal growth that we have all been seeking and sometimes having a hard time finding.

  • Dhyan S.

    March 12th, 2016 at 11:52 AM

    Yes I certainly know what you mean. When you’ve gotten a lot out of an experience like therapy you’re more likely to want to share it with interested people.

  • Cale

    March 14th, 2016 at 10:27 AM

    It has to be scary to sit down face to face with someone who has had years of experience and training and talk to them openly about what you would like to get from this experience.

    If they were like me this would be a pretty intimidating thing to do, like who am I to be saying this to this professional who obviously knows what they are doing?

  • Dhyan

    March 14th, 2016 at 10:54 AM

    Cale, you are the only one who knows if you are comfortable or not with this person; If you feel like this is an easy person to talk to. I know it can be intimidating, but try thinking about it like shopping for any other service. Does this person inspire confidence in you? The therapist knows what they’re doing (hopefully) but you’re the expert on you and your experience. Hope this is helpful.

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