Therapy can often feel like a very mystical and unknown affair. Many of us know about therapy or know someone who has gone to therapy, but unless we have experienced therapy for ourselves, it can be hard to know what actually goes on during a therapy session or what starting therapy looks like. This can sometimes hinder us from going to therapy ourselves as it can feel very overwhelming.
Where to Start…
The first step in going to therapy, which is deciding whether or not you feel that you are ready for it, is usually the biggest step. This can take a very small amount of time for some, or a much longer time for others. This journey is completely yours, so it can be good to check in with yourself about whether or not you feel ready to start your therapeutic journey.
After that the next step in starting therapy is usually finding a therapist. There can be a lot of things to take into consideration when finding a therapist that might be a good fit for you. Things like whether or not they take insurance, their location, availability, or speciality are all good things to think about. You might also find comfort in reading a little about the different therapists you are considering. Most therapists have introductions about themselves on the internet so you can get a better understanding of what they are like. This can make a huge difference in your connection and relationship with your therapist.
After you find a therapist that is a good fit for you, the next step is scheduling your first appointment! This is such an exciting, but also scary thing! It takes so much courage to start something new, especially something as vulnerable as therapy. In this time it can be helpful to take time to appreciate the steps you are taking to invest in the quality of your life.
What Will the First Appointment Look Like?
Once you have made your first appointment you will usually sign a variety of forms just like you would for a doctor’s appointment! The therapist will also let you know where their office is located, or in the current state of the world, what video streaming service they will be calling you from and you will be set to go.
Each therapist has their own individual approach to counseling so no two sessions will be exactly alike. However, usually the first session is similar to a get to know you event. There is a lot of time spent on getting comfortable with each other and sharing basic information about yourself. There might be some talk about what you hope to achieve in counseling so that you have an idea of what counseling may look like.
Something to Keep in Mind
From this point, everyone’s counseling journey is so diverse and beautiful! You will develop a place in counseling where you feel safe to be authentically yourself. Some sessions might include a lot of emotions and healing, others might be a time to decompress and process what is going on in your life right now. Therapy is a journey and it looks different for everyone, but through this journey you may feel more like yourself than you ever have before.
**note: the words “therapy” & “counseling” can be used interchangeably (and are done so above).
Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime’s work, but it’s worth the effort.
Curious about what this experience is like as a therapist? Check out this blog here!
Written by: Danielle Peartree, Office Manager Extraordinaire
What is quality time? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is: “time spent giving all of one’s attention to someone who is close” You may be thinking “um…but aren’t I spending all my time with people who are close right now?” Yes, but I want to encourage you to think about what that time looks like and how quality time might be different. As I write this, I’m wondering if spending quality time with the people we are in contact with may be even more important right now. With many of us working from home, there is sometimes little distinction between work time and play time.
Anyone else answering work emails while playing with their kid? In my experience, these moments are sometimes necessary but are often frustrating for everyone involved. Or maybe you aren’t writing emails, but your mind is thinking about what you’ll say in your 2:00 meeting. Again, you may need to be with your child and plan for your meeting at the same time, I get that (I really do!) However, it’s important that there are times when your child, your partner, and, even yourself get your undivided attention. While my toddler lets me know in no uncertain terms when I’m not paying enough attention to him, an older child or partner may be more subtle. Here are a few things to look out for and ideas for connecting.
With your Kids
Signs you child could benefit from some quality time with you:
They appear easily frustrated when you need to complete a task
They seem to need your help with everything, including tasks you know they can do themselves
They repeatedly do things that require you to stop what you are doing and attend to them, even if it’s to tell them to stop
You are feeling annoyed, irritated, worried or guilty
Tips for quality time with kids
Turn off your phone and play with your kids…it doesn’t matter if they’re 2 and want to build towers and knock them down or 15 and want to play video games or do a craft project.
Let your child choose an activity they want to share with you or brainstorm a list of activities together and take turns picking something off the list.
Be curious—ask open-ended questions like “what do you like most about this song?” “How do you feel about that?” “What are you most looking forward to?”
For young children, plan for at least 10 minutes a day. For older children, try a minimum of 30 minutes once a week of focused “special time.” Teens may appreciate less frequent but longer stretches of time.
Check out this post for some fun activities to do with kids during quarantine.
With your Partner
Signs your relationship could use some attention:
You’re bickering often over “small stuff“
You or your partner feels disconnected
You’re having frequent miscommunications
It’s been a while since you had a date night or spent one-on-one time together without distractions
Tips for quality time with your partner
If possible, find a time when you won’t be interrupted by kids or work (and turn your phone off!)
Schedule a date night. You may not be able to go to your favorite restaurant, but you can order take-out and watch a movie, go for a walk, play a game, or have a picnic in your backyard.
Set aside 10 minutes before bed each night to check in about your day or cuddle.
Accomplish something together. This could be a house project, a puzzle, a new fitness routine, or whatever suits your interests.
Download one of these apps or read this blog post to learn more about each other and get ideas for strengthening your relationship.
Signs you could use some attention:
You’re easily frustrated or feel irritable and on edge
You notice you’re holding tension in your body
You feel drained (physically, emotionally, mentally)
You feel anxious, worried, sad, agitated
Tips for quality time with yourself:
Find a space that feels good to you. If you don’t have one, try to create a cozy, calming atmosphere by lighting a candle, wrapping up in a blanket, or designating a corner of your room as your calming area. You can add cushions, a comfy chair, favorite pictures or an essential oil diffuser.
If you live with other people, tell them you need some to yourself and to not disturb you unless it’s an emergency (of course, if you’re alone with young children you may need to time this for their nap time or after they’re in bed).
Take a walk and just notice how your body feels, the thoughts you’re having, feelings that come up. Try to notice these things without judgement. Check out this post for some mindfulness tips and tricks.
Journal, paint, or do something else creative.
Read a book, listen to music, or watch a show that makes you feel good.
Avoid doing chores, answering emails, or working during this time!
It doesn’t so much matter what you do, but that you set aside time to be truly present, whether it’s with yourself, your children, your partner, or anyone else. Just enjoying each other can help deepen your connection and bring a greater sense of peace and belonging during this unpredictable time.
“Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”
It’s no secret that things are wonky right now…to say the very least…
When people go in public, they’re sporting a new accessory…the face mask
AND if someone isn’t wearing one, you definitely notice it
Overnight, parents became home-school teachers, activity providers, house keepers, workers/providers, partners, and caretakers…need I say more?
2020 graduates aren’t having an in-person graduation to celebrate a milestone of their lives
Iconic Austin restaurants are starting announcing permanent closures
Because of shelter-in-place & social distancing…regular facetime with friends, family, and loved ones is either REALLY limited or not happening at all
I could go on, however, that doesn’t seem necessary. What is necessary, though, is how you feel in your body RIGHT NOW after reading that list. That sensation (whatever it may be) is happening because everything listed above is a lot to manage…especially because nobody was expecting a pandemic, and even if we were, we are all first-timers at this and adjusting to new things is often scary. There are a lot of big feelings that have been happening (for everyone) and those big feelings can be confusing…scary…unwelcomed…helpful…they can be all over the place, really, and learning how to navigate all of that is MUCH easier said than done, however, it is 100% doable with various mindfulness practices.
In my dear friend, Katy Manganella’s, blog on establishing a mindfulness practice, she defined mindfulness as “simply the practice of coming into the present moment”. Again…that can be a lot easier said than done, however, there are practical mindfulness tips & tricks below to help you navigate the world of feeling your feelings and looking for ways to ground yourself (especially during a particularly uncertain time).
…yes! Start here! While this may feel like a silly (and oversimplified) suggestion, it’s arguably one of the easiest ways to start practicing mindfulness. Most of the time, we are breathing pretty shallowly…in fact, the last time a lot of us took an intentional deep breath was when a doctor had a stethoscope touching our chest or back and directed you to take deep breaths. Below are a few easy, simple ways to practice intentional, mindful, deep breathing.
This is an easy technique that involves intentionally breathing in for a particular count (for example, 3)…so you breathe in (1, 2, 3) hold your breath (1, 2, 3) exhale (1, 2, 3), hold (1, 2, 3) and repeat. This article has a great video for a guided visual for help with box breathing.
Another way to intentional breathe is to inhale for a particular count (let’s say 5) and exhale for a longer amount of time (let’s say 7). This is a GREAT way to help calm your nervous system.
Some people may try these out and realize they are still breathing shallowly…a way to learn how to breathe deeply & intentionally is to lie down on your back, put a book on your belly (probably something not too heavy) and breathe in and out with the intention of making the book move. This will require some work…and may not be the best technique for someone who has experienced trauma.
Tune into Your Senses
Another mindfulness tip is to tune into your senses. We are CONSTANTLY taking in sensory information and are typically in autopilot. Give yourself an opportunity to focus on one of your senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste) and focus ONLY on that one sense for 2 minutes (set a timer if you need to so you’re not focused on the time the entire time).
For example, if I was focusing on touch in this very moment–I would notice:
My computer (not a very mindful thing…but figured I’d be honest)
The keys feel different than the touch pad
The texture of the couch I’m sitting on
The soft, fuzzy blanket next to me
My dog’s fur
…I was actively noticing those (although admittedly, I was distracted because I’m writing this), however, it was a nice moment to truly slow down. Give yourself permission to slow down and notice things around you.
Things to keep in mind: Taste may NOT be the best sense to focus on…and if you choose smell–know that it’s okay if you don’t smell anything. Don’t force it. Rather, notice what it’s like to not smell anything in that moment. It sounds woo-woo (and maybe it is), but I promise there’s a method to my madness.
Pay Attention to Your Body
…which is another tip that’s easier said than done. For as long as I can remember, I have heard phrases like “I had a gut feeling…” or “…that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!” It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I understood that that was our bodies communicating messages to us (I promise…method to my madness) and it wasn’t until my late 20s (and MAYBE even my 30s) that I truly understand what that meant.
Even though I’m actively living what you are right now…a global pandemic…and I’m 100% aware of things that are happening around us, when I wrote the list out of changes that are happening all around us, I had a physical reaction to it…I felt a pit in my stomach and a heaviness in my chest…and as I sat with that for a while…I was able to name what was going on: feeling sad (about things happening around us), curious/anxious (about the future), and even a little stuck (because of the uncertainty of the future). That can feel like an overwhelming amount of information to realize from simply noticing a sensation in your body…and some days, it is.
However, the more you notice physical sensations that are happening, the more you can name what feeling(s) you’re experiencing, and the more you can access (and hopefully name!) what you’re needing…otherwise you might just feel foggy, agitated, anxious…or all of the above and feel like you just can’t shake what’s happening inside of you.
Side note: The Emotionary is a book of words that don’t exist for feelings that do. It’s NOT child-friendly and is a fun, great way to access some of the mixed/morphed/big feelings you have.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “meditation”? I called my best friend (a business attorney…so someone who is NOT in the mental health world) and she made a joke about lighting incense, holding hands, and chanting…while that can paint the picture of what meditation looks like for some people, that’s not what it’s always like (I promise!). You can google “guided meditation” and be gifted with SO many options–which is great! You can find meditations for specific purposes (e.g.: waking up or relaxing) or a particular amount of time (e.g.: 2 minutes or 20 minutes). Mindfulness
Note: This is not kid-friendly and uses profanity.
By definition, self-compassion involves “extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering” (for more information on it, check out Kristin Neff’s work!) I know I’ve repeated myself a few times now…but this is DEFINITELY easier said than done. An easy way to start practicing self-compassion is simply by using the word “and”.
“I feel like a failure as a parent right now….AND I’m doing the best that I can”
“I feel really anxious because of the uncertainty around us…AND thank goodness I have a therapist I can talk to about these feelings”
I’m so upset that I don’t get to have a normal graduation…AND I am grateful for ways I can celebrate in the future”
“I love my family, but am SO tired of being around them/I feel like I need a break…AND that’s okay!”
See what I did that? That’s self-compassion in a nutshell. It’s SO easy to get caught up in negative self-talk (especially when we’re surrounded by stress, anxiety, and scarcity thinking)…rather than getting bound to black-and-white & all-or-nothing thinking, embrace the beauty of “and” andallow multiple experiences to happen at once. After all, that IS the human condition…right?
You might read some of the tips & tricks and think “YES! This sounds perfect” and others you might be more like “Nope…no thanks”. Both of those reactions are completely fine and to-be-expected. Whatever tip or trick you gravitate towards, try incorporating that into your life on a regular basis…the more practice you have doing it on the daily, the more likely you will be able to pull that out of your toolbox when you’re feeling a lot of big feelings and are needing something to ground you.