Individual psychotherapy can be extremely helpful for clients living with a variety of psychiatric conditions. Meeting with a therapist on a weekly basis provides an opportunity to learn new coping strategies, to process one’s emotions and to set goals for a healthier future.
But what about the other 167 hours in the week? How can we actively pursue our emotional wellness goals between therapy sessions?
Many psychotherapists assign homework to their clients. Homework can take a variety of forms, including reading, using a workbook or tracking feelings and behaviors. This is an excellent way to consistently engage with your treatment goals between therapy sessions.
In general, behavioral treatment approaches tend to use take-home assignments more than supportive or psychodynamic approaches.
If you feel a need for more specific between-session direction, talk to your psychotherapist. Together you will be able to identify and implement a plan that makes the most of your therapeutic effort.
Below are some general suggestions for integrating your emotional wellness goals into your daily life:
Write in a journal
Journaling is a time-honored technique for observing and recording one’s experience. Journal entries can be made in a traditional paper book, but can also be made as voice memos on a smart phone, or typed entries on a laptop or tablet.
Entries do not necessarily have to be long, but consistency is key. When entries are made on a regular basis, behavioral patterns are more easily discerned.
Use an app
Many people use some kind of device with an internet connection, such as a phone or tablet. Mental health apps abound, providing tools for tracking moods, accessing guided meditation or connecting with a supportive community.
Many of us spend a significant portion of the day looking at our smart phones; wellness apps offer a tool to bring self-awareness into our busy schedule.
Set a daily intention
Choose a time every morning for brief reflection. During that time you can, pray, meditate or review your wellness goals. Identify a specific area you want to bring to awareness that day. Set your intention to be mindful of that goal, checking in with yourself occasionally throughout the day.
In my experience, clients who use some of these tools between sessions are able to reap the most benefit from their time in session. They come to sessions with questions, observations and insights and are typically energized by the psychotherapeutic process.
Maria Malcolm Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and associate at Psychological & Counseling Associates of the Lowcountry.