Episode 68 Take Note

Sometimes it’s all you can do to make it to and through your therapy session.

Having the presence of mind to take notes sounds like a luxury.

But as you heal, the time will come when you have the bandwidth to invest more of yourself in your recovery. And this episode is full of practical tips on how to do it.

The Motherhood Unmasked podcast with Vanessa A. Harris Episode 68 Take Note

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Hey there Mama Bare! I don’t know about you, but as a busy mom, I love it when people offering wisdom break it down into practical steps.

And when it comes to making the most of your therapy sessions, I’ll tell you exactly how in this episode of Motherhood Unmasked.

This season, we’ve been talking about Imposter Syndrome and how therapy equips you to confront it by dealing with the unresolved childhood trauma that feeds it.

That led to talking about prioritizing your healing journey, repositioning people who threaten it and welcoming women who support you on that journey.


But in this episode, I want to get super practical about how to make the most of your therapy sessions and it’s by taking note of what’s thought, said and felt in your time with your therapist. 

And I literately mean taking notes.


Well, my therapy sessions are not free. They’re an investment of my time and money. And I want to get the most out of every one of them.

I’m sure you do, too.

Your therapist, however, is a resource with information and strategies to help you navigate your thoughts and emotions.

And your goal is to retain as much as possible so you can use it. I mean, that’s why you’re there! 


When you approach therapy as an investment, you avoid the trap of seeing your therapist as a friend you meet up with to chat every week or every other week.

He or she is not just somebody to talk to who understands. And while that is part of the experience—being heard by somebody who wants to understand—your therapist is not your friend. 

The intake paperwork I filled out before meeting with my therapist for the first time said just as much.

I don’t recall the exact wording, but it was something to the effect that by signing this document; you acknowledge we are not friends.

And when I read it I laughed to myself because I thought, does that really need to be said?

But it does, because in therapy you’re confiding in someone at a level you would only consider doing with a friend—even though you don’t.

So while your therapist sets a boundary regarding the dynamics of your working relationship, you can reinforce that boundary on our end by taking notes.

Because I don’t take notes when I talk with my friends and I assume you don’t either.

But when you approach therapy as the business of personal development, taking notes makes perfect sense.

They formalize the experience, encouraging you to approach it sober minded.  


Note taking also helps with recall later on.

There is a lot going on in a therapy session, not the least of which are the range of your emotions.

Have you noticed how emotions have a funny way of short circuiting your memory?

You either forget things altogether that were said or you zoom in on a particular memory or comment when there were other things said that are equally useful?

Taking notes helps you remember what happened in the session, which is handy those days you question why you’re in therapy. Is this really worth it?

You can go back through your notes to see just what was covered and if you’re making progress with your therapist. 

And you know what else? 


Jotting down notes in your session serves as a reference in between sessions.

Because, like me, you live life in a pattern.

That’s why we see therapists. There’s a pattern we see in our lives that we can’t pinpoint how it started, but we know it’s not serving us and we need help interrupting the pattern.

Some variation of an experience you share in therapy will happen again.

And being able to refer to counsel recorded in your very own therapedia—totally made that up—allows you to practice interrupting unhealthy patterns and start new ones.

Now your notes become a reference manual of sorts, helping you remember the new skill you want to make use of in a familiar situation.


All of that serves to help you track your progress. When you look back at your notes and see what experiences you’ve covered, the aha moments and the breakthroughs, it encourages to keep showing up for future appointments, aka showing up for yourself.

Because you can see tangibly how you have grown as opposed to going by how things seem or feel after a session.

And if you take session notes in tandem with daily journaling, then you really see how issues covered in session impact your daily experiences—and your responses to them.

The more you can get stuff out of your head and put on paper, the more evidence of the growth you’re experiencing. 


Now. What to write? 

Well, I write things I say that surprise me. Things that I didn’t expect to say, didn’t know I thought, or wasn’t planning to share in that moment.

My therapist has an uncanny gift for coaxing me into doing all three. And so I write them down for the gift of insight that they are. 

Umm, you could also note your aha moments or revelations. The times when your therapist offers a perspective on what you’re sharing that because she’s not the one who experienced it, isn’t bogged down by the emotion of it all.

So, she listens to what you’re saying and hears what’s behind what you’re saying.

Then, when she reflects it back to you, you’re able to consider something you never saw before.

When the insight my therapist shares resonates with me, I write that down because it’s new information.

Really, anything that’s new to me in that session, I write down so I can chew on it later. 


Now, how to take notes is another thing. 

Because I love to capture what she said exactly how she said it, I initially made the mistake of trying to write in full sentences.

But then I would miss a lot of information because I was writing while she was still talking. So instead I recommend writing in shorthand.

And by that I mean write in three to four word phrases. Just enough to capture what was said so you can go back later and fill in the full thought.

I typically do that filling in part in that time I take after sessions I talked about in the Time for A Little R&R episode.

That’s a great time to do it because the session is still fresh in your mind and your phrases will be just enough to jog your memory so that you can put down the full thoughts.


That’s what I write down during the session, but the organization of my notes is where my session journal comes in. 

I created the journal because I needed the structure it provided and couldn’t find one like it when I shopped on Amazon.

So, my journal separates my note taking into three sections.  

The first section is for thoughts.

Whether they’re mine, my therapist’s own thoughts on a matter or ones she tosses out for my consideration.

So, the surprising statements and the aha moments I mentioned earlier would also go in the thoughts section. 

Then there’s the truth section.

And I separated it from thoughts because you can think a lot of things that aren’t true. And it’s in the course of your session that the difference is teased out.

So, you can come into your session having written some thoughts you believe, but during the session, discover the truth of the matter.

The truth section is where you would record that. And that is a piece of encouragement showing you that once believed something that didn’t serve you, but on that date, you believed the truth instead.

And that’s beyond encouragement, really. It’s empowering. 

The last section of my session notes is where I note my takeaways.

My therapist asks me what is the one thing I’m going to take away from our conversation.

But if your therapist doesn’t ask you that, then this serves as a prompt to come away with at least one thing you plan to chew on or explore until the next session.

It’s also where I write any homework assignments given to build on what we discussed in that session.

So if the next session is a week out and I want to refer to what I need to work on before the next session, I just go to the takeaway portion.

Conversely, if immediately after the session I want to go fill out my notes some more, then I go through the thoughts section.

I look where I just put phrases and then I elaborate on the thought that my therapist shared or what occurred to me while she was talking.

Or if I need to flesh out more of the truth I discovered, then I know where to go to do that. 


If you are interested in purchasing this session journal for your use, you can do so on Amazon.

It’s called My Reflections Journal: A Guided Post-Session Review. I’ll link to it in this episode’s show notes at motherhoodunmasked.com/episode68

Oh, and another thing I use the thoughts section for is to write what I want to discuss in my next therapy session.

Preparing for the next session speaks to recognizing the investment you’re making in yourself and wanting to be an active participant in your healing.  

It’s also a way to spot your growth.

When I first started therapy, my therapist steered the sessions. We would just pick up from where we left off before.

But as I heal, there are some topics we’ve exhausted but others that come up, so she welcomes me to come with things I want to talk about.

Otherwise, she’ll go to her notes and find things that came up in the past, but that we never explored and we can go from there.  


So real talk I don’t always come prepared with something I want to dive into, nor do I always complete my homework assignments.

I know what it’s like to be 10 minutes before a session, jotting down the answers to things she asked me to consider weeks before.

Because life has a way of interrupting, even when you have a system.

But the beauty is, the reason I know there was an assignment and why it even came about is, I took notes during the previous session.  

What I’m really talking about is being an active participant in your life.  

So much of trauma tells you you are a victim and things just happen to you. But therapy is an opportunity to assert yourself in your own healing.


It’s not your therapist’s responsibility. You are the primary investor. She can’t want you to be healed more than you do.

Your therapist is a resource and a help, but healing has to be what you want for yourself.

And I have found taking notes, reviewing them and coming prepared to discuss topics keeps me involved in my thought life.

Keeps me attentive and alert to my emotions and paying attention to what’s going on with me, so that I am making the most of the opportunity I have to grow into a healthier wife, mother, and woman overall. 

I hope this in-depth look into what I do during a therapy session takes some of the hesitancy out of getting started if you haven’t started counseling.

Or if you’re already in counseling encourages you to take it up another level by investing as a co-laborer with your therapist.

I think you will find your transformation happens quicker and you reach your goals faster.  

If you’d like to go deeper, as always, I welcome you to check out the show notes for the homework—the work you do to build your home and family starting with you. You can find it at motherhoodunmasked.com/episode68

That’s also where you will find the link to the session review journal and my daily writing journal called journal from the heart.

You’re a brave woman and I’m proud of you for showing up for you.

So, do yourself a favor and please remember. When it comes to being the mother of your children, don’t look around for someone better to do it. No ma’am. You are the woman for the job. Take care.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast should not be taken as medical advice. The content here is for informational purposes only, and because each person is so unique, please consult your health care professional for any medical questions.

This Episode’s Homework

Need Help to Heal?

Therapeutic Tools

If you’re working through any kind of loss, the journal My Journey Through Grief and Loss helps you acknowledge the significance of your loss while honoring the memories you’ll always cherish.

And if you meet with a counselor or a coach, you need a journal to keep track of session breakthroughs and aha moments in between sessions. A copy of My Reflections Journal for guided post-session review would be perfect for you.

Let’s Stay Connected

Do you know why I call you Mama BARE? Because you’re unmasked and unapologetic in admitting motherhood is tough, and you appreciate conversation that honors that.

So, connect with me for more support, empowering the best version of you as a mom.

For encouraging bi-monthly emails and exclusive access to practical resources that help YOU shine, tap “COUNT ME IN.”

The Motherhood Unmasked Journal

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160 pages waiting for you to fill it with the struggles and the wins on your motherhood journey!

And she’s pretty coming and going! Available on Amazon.

Got A Minute to Pray?

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New “PrayerTube” channel on YouTube

Features prayers about a minute long written and read by Vanessa. Start your week off right, with a prayer on Monday mornings. Because prayer changes things and you have a minute to spare.

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