How to Become the Best Patient, Part 2

How can you improve the positive effects of therapy?

Entering psychotherapy for the first time is challenging to say the least, because you have to allow someone else to reorient and condition your mind, in the effort to stem the negative tides created by your mood disorder.

It’s normal to feel vulnerable and defensive when you’re just starting out with therapy.

It’s also easy to assume that your therapist is “not on your side” because you keep hearing things that are essentially true but not exactly acceptable to you, given your present mindset. Avoid being “led on” by negativity, because that’s not really you talking – it’s your mood disorder. As your psychotherapist’s new patient, it’s your job to behave well during therapy and to cooperate as much as possible with him/her.

Below are some simple ways that you can remain committed to your therapy and overall recovery efforts:

  1. Honesty helps. Be completely straightforward with your therapist when you share your successes and current challenges with your mood disorder. While it’s true that your therapist will be happy to hear any progress, you mustn’t “dress up” your progress just to put your therapist (or anyone for that matter) at ease.

If you are struggling to cope with your depression and the current treatment is not working, you must tell your psychiatrist so that the right adjustments can be made. Treating depression is not a “one shot” event: medical doctors are not magicians.

Each case of clinical depression is unique, the same way that each person is unique. You can’t compare your experiences with depression with the experiences of other people. In the same vein, you can’t expect your psychiatrist to begin suggesting treatments and drugs that you’ve read online simply because other people are talking about them or because some websites are using them as “hot topics.”

  1. Work up a sweat. Psychotherapy for mood disorders is marked by milestones or the accomplishment of major goals. Work hard to accomplish each milestone, even if you feel like staying at home and doing nothing because of your low mood.

The low mood that you are experiencing right now is the effect of your depression. Again, that’s not “you” per se, but the mood disorder. If you let your low mood win, the depression is not going to go away any time soon and you will continue to experience the same spectrum of negative emotions that are causing so many problems in your life right now.

Whenever you feel like giving up on your depression, think of all the things that you still want to accomplish without this mood disorder trailing your every thought, word and action. Visualize yourself being completely free of its symptoms and think of just how amazing life would be again once you’ve gotten over this minor stumbling block in life.

Yes, depression is a stumbling block. What it’s not is a death sentence. You can still function and succeed as an individual even if you’ve been diagnosed with depression. There’s more effort involved but if you stay on track, there’s virtually nothing blocking your way to success.

  1. Share insights & make suggestions. Your psychotherapist will be doing the best that he/she can to predict what’s going on in your mind, based on what you share with him/her. Be open with your psychotherapist and reveal any and all aspects/details of your mood disorder so that your therapist will be able to make informed decisions about your treatment or therapy.

Should you make suggestions?

Absolutely. Making suggestions during therapy is a sign of motivation and initiative, which are both rare in individuals who are suffering from low mood.

If you think something needs to be addressed in your therapy or life, feel free to share it with your psychotherapist. Your psychotherapist may not agree with you all the time, but generally speaking, he/she will be willing to listen to you in an objective manner.

The big difference between sharing your thoughts with a professional psychotherapist and sharing them with someone with no prior training is that your psychotherapist will be able to integrate the insights that you have shared into your overall treatment plan.

  1. Be nice to your therapist. While it’s true that therapists have a high tolerance for harsh words and emotional outbursts, it doesn’t mean that you’re free to be verbally or emotionally abusive during therapy.

There’s a big difference between sharing a negative emotion or experience with your therapist and venting/redirecting it to another person. If you vent your anger and frustrations on your therapist, your therapist will feel that he/she is being attacked and this sets you back once again in the scale of recovery. Proper emotional management is vital to your success as a person with depression.