Many people begin therapy in times of crisis, when problems get to be so large and all-consuming that they need an outlet. Much of those early sessions are spent dissecting an issue, concentrating on it fully to achieve a resolution. There can be a tendency to think that everything else going on in your life is trivial or not worthy of the same exploration.
But like Mandy Moore says in a recent article, there is plenty of insight to be gained when things aren’t so stressful. Therapy is an essential part of Moore’s self-care routine, yet she notes she often feels its benefits when she least expects it:
“I feel like [therapy is] most beneficial at times when I don’t think that I need it, like when there’s not a ton going on that feels stressful,” she explained. “I find that I get the most benefit out of it sometimes when I feel like I’m doing okay.”
Many therapists would agree that you do your best clear and creative thinking when you feel calm, grounded, and in control. In these periods, you might pick up on other aspects of your life which were contributing to stress you hadn’t noticed before.
Another major benefit of going to therapy when everything’s okay is to reinforce what’s working for you. Just like a debrief after a big project at work, it can be helpful to go through an evaluation of your new coping methods after they’ve been tested. Say you make a visit home to see your parents and it goes really well, for a change. Once you’ve recovered from the shock, you could spend a session discussing what made the visit different – how you acted, how they acted, what you might like to try differently next time to get even better results.
It’s important to process and truly inhabit the way the new positive results affect you. After you visited home, did you feel happy or comforted? How did those good feelings ripple out into the rest of your life? How does it feel to know you did things differently? As adults we don’t often get the gold stars or pats on the back we expected (or didn’t) as kids. While a big part of therapy is about making changes, it is also about giving yourself credit for making them. An unstructured session with your therapist might seem like luxury, but it is actually an essential aspect of ensuring that the changes you make are lasting and strong.
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