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I'm a college student, and I utilize the free counseling service on campus. Once a therapist told me to register for a shorter session because he didn't think I needed 1 hour and he wanted to be more available for other students.

How should one prepare for a counseling session? Writing down questions? I always feel like not bring enough things to talk about in my sessions make my therapist "unhappy".

I feel like I've asked two separate questions. Anyway, any specific or broad advice is welcomed.

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    $\begingroup$ Apart from the pointers @MarkDWorthenPsyD gave, the prime thing you need to talk about is what you have come to see your counsellor for. If your counsellor doesn't know what you are seeking help for, he/she is not going to be able to help you. $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Apr 12 at 9:26
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Proviso: What I write below is simply general advice and does not establish a psychologist-patient or psychologist-client professional relationship.

Here are some general suggestions for individual psychotherapy discussion topics:

  • Tell your counselor how you are feeling, for example, "I feel nervous before sessions because I'm not sure what to talk about" or "I'm afraid that if I don't bring up enough topics you won't like me, or you will be bored with me."

    • In my personal experience as a client in psychotherapy, this is both the most difficult and the most helpful of all the suggestions I'm writing in this post.
  • Ask your therapist for advice on how to prepare for counseling sessions.

  • If you feel that your counselor is not listening or does not seem to care or is simply not helpful, ask to see another counselor. Depending on the setting (college counseling center, private therapist, mental health agency), you might be asked to explain why you want to see another therapist. If that is the case, write down your reasons, without censoring what you write. You can decide later how blunt (direct) you want to be.

  • Read self-help books on behavior change; goal-setting; developing good habits; etc.

  • For my own personal growth (and as a psychologist) I really like worksheets because they get me thinking about questions that I would not have considered otherwise. Here are some (all free):

    • Change Plan Worksheet - created for substance abuse treatment, but they apply to almost any problem or goal.

    • Personal Values Card Sort - this is one of my favorites. If you download it, get your scissors out as you need to cut up the little rectangles printed on each page. You create three piles for the cards: Not Important to me; Important to me; and Very Important to me. After you cut out all the "cards", go through them one at a time and put them on one of the three piles. Back in the day they called this "values clarification".

    • The Personal Values Cardsort (and similar cardsorts) have helped me a lot personally and many of my psychotherapy patients over the years have also find them to be very helpful.

    • PsychPoint Therapy Worksheets - this site is designed primarily for mental health professionals, but most of the worksheets are not complicated. Look over the worksheets first before downloading them because you can download only three worksheets. (You can download more if you are a licensed mental health professional and want to subscribe for $99 USD per year.) [I am not affiliated with this website or its owner.]

    • Complete a worksheet before a counseling session, make a copy of your completed worksheet, and give it to your counselor at the beginning of the session.

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