There is a first time for everything and, as with many of the people I have worked with over the years, there is a first time for being a client in therapy too. It can take some time to warm up to a therapist and to get comfortable with the therapeutic process - even experienced therapy-goers sometimes struggle with how to best show up for therapy.
Fortunately, you do not have to figure this out on your own. A big part of my job is to help introduce and guide my clients through this process. Like any other relationship, we work together to build a solid foundation from which to explore and grow. Also true of any relationship, it takes both parties to make things work.
As a client, here are the ways to really show up and get the most out of therapy:
Consistently Show Up: therapy is most effective when it occurs frequently (particularly in the beginning). To get the most out of your sessions, make sure to show up on on time and not to miss appointments so that your therapist can really get to know you and what is going on in your life. If you are constantly playing catch-up, it will be hard to delve deeper into the real work.
Be Present: part of showing up is also focusing your attention on your sessions. It's best to turn off your phone (or turn it on silent) so that you can really be present without distractions (your therapist should be doing the same of course!). If you are doing your therapy online, make sure you have a quiet and private space where you can be fully immersed in your session.
Be Honest: a therapist can only be as helpful as you allow them to be. In other words, if you aren't being honest with me, I am probably missing some important information that would allow me best help and support you. I know it can be difficult to share personal details about your life, especially ones that bring up sadness or shame - but as difficult as it may feel for you, keep in mind that I have worked with many clients and heard many stories before - likely even ones that are similar to your own.
Let Your Therapist Know if Something Isn't Working: therapists are people too, with real feelings, but we are also trained professionals offering a service. If something about therapy isn't feeling right, we want you to tell us so we can work through it together. Oftentimes, bringing something up to your therapist that isn't working can lead to a deepening of the therapeutic relationship and some greater personal insights.
Trust the Process: Rome wasn't built in a day and neither are the changes that occur in therapy. The pace of therapy depends on what issues you are working on, how much you are doing outside of sessions, and other factors in your life. As I often remind my clients - it has taken a long time to get to this point in your life and it will also take some time to get to a different place so trust the process and do your best to show up.