While it is true that taking part in therapy or counseling can improve your mental health, lessen self-destructive habits and decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression and other disorders, it is equally true that the success of therapy depends on you. It is absolutely crucial to find a counselor that you click with and a reputable mental health treatment center, yes, but none of these good things will have a lasting effect if you don’t put in the effort and time they deserve.
The importance of making mental health therapy your own
None of us change our behaviors and mindsets unless that desire for change comes from within; in other words, if we don’t want to change, we won’t. This applies to mental health therapy. The more you desire and work towards that positive change in your life, the more you will see that change take place.
There are a number of mental health tips you can utilize to get the most out of therapy, including the ones listed below.
1. Actively participate
This might seem obvious, but getting into a session can be intimidating and certain questions may make you want to offer one-word answers without actively diving into the gritty reality. However, only by going to those hard places will you be able to experience the most growth. Actively engaging with the materials, questions and conversations your therapist offers will significantly impact your mental health and overall experience of therapy.
2. Ask direct questions
One simple and easy way to engage is by asking direct questions. If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification. Ask how you can do better, where you’re excelling and what you need to work on most to reach your goals. Being open to constructive criticism will not only benefit your therapy sessions but will also grow you as a person.
3. Create a nurturing environment
To bolster your active participation, create a nurturing environment for yourself. Take care of yourself by relaxing between sessions. Try journaling to reflect on what you’re thinking and feeling. Go on walks to process your thoughts, or for some simple fresh air after a particularly challenging session. Practice self-care through art, yoga, meditation or even cooking a healthy, flavorful comfort meal.
4. Take care of your physical health
It’s important to eat well, exercise, drink plenty of water and get enough sleep in order to take care of your physical body. By prioritizing physical health, you’ll give your body the strength and stamina it needs to continue down this path toward growth and change. Mental health and physical health are intimately connected, and by taking care of your physical health, you are likely to also find a corresponding increase in your mental health.
5. Don’t withhold
If you think a story, anecdote or symptom is important to your mental health therapy, don’t be afraid to share it. Holding back could slow your progress and leave you feeling confused or unsuccessful.
Even if you have an “irrational” or “unimportant” thought, simply bringing it to light can offer you a sense of peace. Plus, what you might think is insignificant could actually prove to be significant.
6. Be brave
Therapy will stir up a lot of emotions and feelings, some of which you may find uncomfortable. But through adversity comes personal growth, so be brave. Remember you’re in an environment meant to support you, and your therapist is not there to judge but to guide and help you navigate even the hardest of emotions and feelings.
The more you learn to confront difficult things in the safe environment of therapy, the more you’ll be able to do so on your own outside of therapy.
7. Put in place the changes discussed
Talking about the change you want to make is a crucial first step. But it’s not enough to simply talk about it — you have to take action.
Taking action to make the changes you’ve talked about in therapy is the only way you’ll actually see a concrete difference in your daily life. And once you put these changes into practice, you’ll realize therapy is working and will feel a greater motivation to continue pursuing it.
8. Be patient with yourself
The changes you’re seeking can be difficult and slow. Growth takes time, effort and patience. Focus on applying learned skills (process goals), rather than on results (outcome goals). Think of process goals as habits. In the end, habits will lead to outcomes, but first, you need to simply establish the habits. By establishing healthy habits with patience, you’ll see results before you know it.
9. Attend all sessions
If you and your therapist agree to a certain number of sessions to get you to your goal, don’t abruptly stop therapy before reaching that point. If you feel a need to terminate therapy, talk to your therapist about it before choosing to stop showing up.
Don’t be embarrassed if you want to stop before the agreed-upon number of sessions, as things do happen. But make sure to communicate this appropriately to perhaps planning a final session to make sure you tie up any loose ends before terminating therapy.
Looking to start mental health therapy?
Beginning mental health therapy is scary, but the more you desire the positive impact, the less frightening it will be. To get in touch with someone about beginning treatment, contact The Light Program by calling us at 610-644-6464.