Calendar alerts, appointments scribbled in planners, email reminders, and alarms are constant reminders that life is busy. Let’s face it: although therapy is extremely beneficial and important, prioritizing the time can be tricky. As you carefully curate your calendar and fight to maximize your appointment, there are a few important steps you can take to make the most of your time with your therapist!

First, you should have an idea of why you’re going to therapy in the first place. Melodie Beattie said, “Goals give our life direction.” Starting therapy with a concrete, attainable goal will give both you and your therapist a head start. Perhaps there’s a crisis you need to process or maybe you need help uncovering the root of your anxiety or anger. Your therapist will help you clearly define your goal(s) and extrapolate action steps during each session.

Next, honesty is key! Being transparent directly correlates to your level of success in therapy. As the old adage goes, ‘you’ll get out of it what you put into it.’  Your therapist is there to help you, but they need accurate information to do so. Feigning stability or happiness is counterproductive. Your therapist is not passing judgement on your mental health; their goal is to help you succeed.

Finally, do your homework. Whatever you’re working on in therapy is designed to carry over into your life. It’s important to keep new skills at the forefront of your mind so you are ready to exercise learned behavior and fight to avoid previous bad habits and decision cycles. Many of your sessions will consist of sharing success and failure in real life applications. If you have not given these new skills a try in the real world, progress will be slow.

Therapy is hard work, but your therapist is there to support you. Be patient with yourself — change doesn’t happen overnight (as much as we wish it could)! Getting to therapy is the first step, now choose to make the most of it! Acknowledge even small progress as a victory and keep working toward that next goal.