By Tikvah Womack, LCPC
Therapy is a wonderful resource. It is hopefully a place where you get to experience compassion and non-judgment from someone else, unlike any other space. Overtime, the therapy process allows you to access your higher self, with more self-compassion and less internal judgement as well, unlocking your truest potential and healthier self. Does this sound magical? Would you believe me if I said all of this happens in just 45-50 minutes a week? Well, it is magical, but you should not believe me that it only takes one therapy session a week.
So where am I going with this, am I knocking my own profession and craft?
While it is an honor and privilege to help facilitate the personal growth in someone’s life, and training and experience can go a long way, therapists are not miracle workers. To achieve what you desire in the amount of time given is a lot of pressure on you, the therapy participant (and arguably your therapist) to create life change, have an epiphany, or feel catharsis each time or in a short amount of time. I sometimes joke with my clients when they look to me for answers that if I had them, trust me, my life would be a lot different (like being a billionaire)
On the contrary, therapy is a start, but it is not the end all be all of improved mental health. In fact, it is not even the predictor. What is actually one of the strongest predictors of resiliency and recovery in mental health is what supports and resources are in place outside of the therapy space. This is equally if not more so true for minors. I tell the parents of the children who come to see me that of course I want the child to open up to me, but the goal is to get them to open up to their parents. As I am only meeting with the child once a week for a short amount of time, the parents will have many more opportunities than I will to offer support and guidance.
Even after you evaluate the ongoing supports and resources, just like there is preventative healthcare, there are preventative mental health coping strategies to build into one’s routine. Not denying the economics of it, there are some alternative therapeutic activities that cost little to nothing. Here are a few to consider:
- Support Groups (formal and informal)
- Picking up a hobby
By adding these or other wellness activities to your routine, the value of therapy increases. It also creates space for more reflection that leads to sustainable change and can help foster an overall sense of health that sometimes therapy cannot accomplish alone. Sometimes in therapy there can be a focus on what’s going wrong to get to root causes for lasting change, which is hard lengthy work. These other wellness spaces can be restorative, and restoration will allow your mind to do heavier lifting in therapy. The test of therapy is not just what happens in the space, it’s what happens outside of it. Good work puts you in the driver’s seat; we’re just one pit stop on the road to wellness and healing. Buckle up!
Tikvah Womack, LCPC is a Clinical Therapist at Jewish Community Services.
JCS is a comprehensive human services organization providing a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.