We all have trauma. And asking for help is the best (and quickest) way to heal.
The importance of mental health is becoming increasingly more recognized. What used to be hush-hush is now more openly talked about between friends, families, and coworkers.
However, many individuals who want (and need) therapy may feel a little overwhelmed. If you haven’t grown up in a family where therapy was encouraged, you may not know what to expect.
Therapy can be a big commitment. It can require a lot of time, financial resources, and emotional energy. This may deter people from trying therapy for the first time.
But a lot of good and important work can be done with a therapist. We all have trauma. And asking for help is the best (and quickest) way to help us heal.
If you’re starting therapy for the first time, here are 5 things you can do to make the most of your sessions.
1: Make Sure Your Therapist Is A Good Fit
This is crucial. Not every therapist is going to be a good fit for you. Start by looking for one that specializes in what you are struggling with.
If you are depressed, find a therapist who specializes in depression. If you’re having marital problems, find a couples therapist. If you are battling anorexia, find a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. You would see a cardiologist if you were experiencing heart problems. Similarly, you should find a therapist with the right background to help you.
Even if you find the right specialist, it may still take time to find the right therapist. That’s okay. Don’t give up. You’ll find a therapist who is a good fit for your needs.
2: Establish a Support System
Therapy does take time and resources. So it’s important to build a support system to help you. This system will help you attend and focus on your therapy work.
If you have children or other major responsibilities, you’ll need to find a babysitter or caregiver. Or you could find a therapist who does virtual appointments.
You might need financial support. Maybe a family member or government aid program could help you afford your sessions.
You might need to talk with someone about what you are learning and experiencing in therapy. Having a trusted individual that you can share your experiences with will be a great emotional support.
Having a support system built in will make your healing process much easier.
3: Journal After Each Session
Journaling provides a lot of health benefits. It is a great way to manage overwhelming emotions. It is a healthy way to express how you are feeling. It has been shown to lower stress and anxiety levels. It helps you prioritize problems, fears, and concerns.
Journaling right after a session will help you make the most of your therapy work. You don’t need to dedicate a lot of time. Just spend 5–10 minutes writing down your experiences and thoughts from your session. Also jot down any insights and action items your therapist gave you.
These few extra minutes will really improve your therapy experience. Journaling can also be a great transition after therapy back to your normal routine.
4: Read Books About What You’re Working On
In therapy, you learn more about yourself and your struggles. You work on changing thought patterns, habits, and improving your life.
But outside of therapy, it can be hard to make this same progress. Reframing our lives takes constant, deliberate effort. Not just once a week for an hour in our therapist’s office.
To continue your healing outside of therapy, work on yourself every day. You can do this by reading books about the issues you’re working through.
Reading provides a safe, quiet space where you can work on your problems at your own pace. It allows you to learn more about your struggles outside of therapy. It keeps you constantly moving forward on your path to healing. I’ve even found that reading helps me better articulate what I’m experiencing to my therapist and those around me. I find quotes from my reading that resonate with me. Then I share these quotes with others and say, “This is exactly how I feel.”
Reading while attending therapy allows you to keep working and growing in between sessions. Reach out to your therapist for book suggestions.
5: Improve Your Physical Health
Your emotional well being interacts with your physical well being. Don’t let all your emotional work in therapy go to waste by neglecting your physical needs. Make the most of your therapy work by caring for your physical needs as well as your emotional needs.
You don’t need to lose 50lbs, run a marathon, or get a six pack. Especially not while dealing with overwhelming emotional struggles. But you do need to start taking care of your body’s basic physical needs.
This means filling up on healthy foods. Drinking lots of water every day (at least half your body weight in ounces). Getting enough sleep each night. And moving your body for 30 minutes each day (this can be walking, jogging, stretching, lifting weights, pilates, yoga, swimming, anything to get you moving!).
Attending therapy and working through your emotional struggles is important work. It will help you overcome big problems like depression, anxiety, family struggles, loss, and more.
But there is still a lot of good work you can do outside of your therapist’s office. These five things will help you on your healing journey. They are simple. But they are great ways to make the most of your therapy work.
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