Whether it's your first or fifth time in therapy, opening a new chapter of healing work within a psychotherapeutic container is vulnerable.
Luckily, there are a few easy and supportive things to keep in mind when starting therapy. Over the next few posts, I will be discussing helpful tips to use when beginning individual and couples Counseling.
By Alkmini Hormovas, LMFT
The first tip is to keep breathing.
You just took a major step in committing to therapy and are opening yourself up to powerful and exciting work. That's huge! It's important to acknowledge the steps (big and small) you are taking to improve your life.
Deciding to prioritize your mental and emotional health and wellness is major. Slowing down and breathing helps in the moments where it can all feel too overwhelming and threatening. People often come to therapy to change something in their lives. While change may be exactly what you want and need, it can still bring up some intense feelings and sensations. For example, wanting to run out the door when things get too intense, deep or vulnerable. This is exactly the type of experience you want to share with your therapist. The impulse of wanting to avoid or run away may come up for you. Your therapist can help you be curious about what is going on there.
I find that golden nuggets of healing are available to us when we respectfully and lovingly ride the waves of resistance, avoidance and denial. This process can be really challenging at times, therefore, remembering to breath and come back to center, ground, peace, presence, whatever you want to call it, is essential.
Be gentle with yourself as you move into the process of therapy.
It is very important to remember that everyone's experience in therapy is unique. There is no benefit to judging yourself based on what someone else in therapy, who is not you, is experiencing. When your mind goes into overdrive over what is or isn't happening in therapy, call a time-out or hit the pause button. Take some deep breaths. Let out a big sigh. In a MRI, this would show the areas of your brain, that are in charge of self regulation, decision-making, resilience and emotion, lighting up. Deeps breaths are physiologically good for us.
Slowing down and being mindful for as long as it takes you to settle down is helpful in high intensity moments, which could occur in therapy. The length of time it takes to settle down or come back to a calm place varies for everyone. Having tools to help you in those moments of worry, panic, overwhelm, anxiety, grief and loss is very helpful. Positive thinking and positive affirmations are really helpful. Louise Hay offers motivational affirmations and quotes. Mindfully reading affirmations aloud can strengthen a positive outlook on life and your next steps.
Mindfulness is a practice that can occur anywhere, anytime. For example, you can pay attention to your breathing anywhere, anytime. Mindful affirmations can help you come to the present moment. Try "breathing in, I am breathing in. Breathing out, I am breathing out." Being mindful asks you to bring your awareness to what is happening at that exact moment. When you do this until you are significantly less agitated and wound up, it helps you unstick from whatever past or future thing is freaking you out. You recognize and connect to what is truly with you at that moment. Try "I am sitting on a blue couch. I can see a green plant. I hear the cars outside." Connecting to what is literally taking place in the space you are in and able to access with all your senses, increases your sense of being in control and centered.
Deepening your understanding of what is true for you can take time.
Patience in any self introspection process and therapeutic work is essential. Bit by bit we move forward. This way we don't miss the good stuff. Breathing mindfully when things are going well is also significant and important to practice. Our sense of well being and health is strengthened when we make time and space to enjoy calm, happy, relieved and satisfied feelings and physical sensations.