How therapy can change your life: joy and contentment can be yours

BY DR. ALEX AVILA

For the average person, the idea of going to a therapist for psychological help can be intimidating: “I’m not crazy; I’m not talking to a shrink.”  Yet, therapy can be very helpful and healing for people with psychological issues (anxiety, depression, PTSD), as well as for those who are OK psychologically, but want to reach higher levels of happiness and success. In my work as a forensic psychologist, I help a lot of people recover who have suffered trauma from a personal injury or accident. In my work at Love University, we have helped many individuals eradicate loneliness and fear to achieve a higher state of excellence. In our current state of mass worldwide anxiety due to the Coronavirus, it is reassuring to know that therapy can help many of us reduce our feelings of anxiety and helplessness so we can create a brighter future for ourselves and our loved ones.

Here are some ways you can get the most from psychotherapy:

*Screen Your Therapist Carefully:  After receiving a referral from a friend or family member, or searching online for highly reviewed therapists, set up a phone interview.  See how comfortable you are talking to them by phone. You can also try them out for a couple of sessions in person to see how well you connect and if you feel empathy and understanding from them.

*Be Authentic:  In your therapy sessions, express how you really feel—don’t hold anything back. If you’re angry or intimidated by your therapist, let them know.  If you don’t think therapy is helping you, speak up.  Your therapist, if skilled, can use everything you tell them as material to help you psychologically, even unpleasant or shameful things you are feeling. Don’t try to please or impress the therapist—be open to who you really are and what you’re really thinking.

*Think of Therapy Like a Mental Laboratory:   Try out things in therapy you would never do in public. If you’re shy, roleplay being assertive.  If you’re too aggressive, practice being more patient and a better listener.  A good therapy session is like a laboratory of the mind in which you’re free to experiment with being whoever you want to be—in a safe and nonjudgmental place.  With the lessons you learn from the therapy session, you can then go out into the world and try out your new persona:  Ask that attractive person for a date; request a raise at work; take a risk on a new business or lifestyle venture.

*Set Milestones:  With your therapist, you can establish a treatment plan—detailing what you want to accomplish in therapy.  Set goals such as getting a new job, finding a compatible romantic partner, getting rid of bad habits or addictions, and developing a more positive mindset.  You can even rate yourself on a scale—for example you’re currently a 5 out of 10 on self-confidence, but your goal is to get to a 9 out of 10. Each week after your therapy session, reflect on the lessons you have learned about yourself, and apply them to your daily life. As you track your progress with a journal or notebook, you can derive additional motivation to achieve even more internal and external objectives.

*Be Prepared to Work Hard and Grow:  Therapy can be hard work. You may face parts of yourself that you’ve kept hidden for a long time—painful elements of your life that you’ve tried to forget.  Feelings of regret, fear, sadness, and futility may all come up as you strive to become the person you really are inside.  Yet, all the work you do in therapy will definitely be worth it. Just like the pain of childbirth yields a beautiful child, the struggle of therapy done well will create a new “You,” and help you accomplish everything you have ever wanted in life.

Although therapy may not be for everyone, many people can use this powerful tool to solve everyday problems and foster human growth and contentment.  Start by choosing the right therapist—someone you can have confidence in—doing your work weekly and applying what you’ve learned in your daily actions.  With the right therapist, you can perform wonders in your life, as you begin to reach your highest potential and live joyfully.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON HOW THERAPY CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE:  JOY AND CONTENTMENT CAN BE YOURS