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4 Causes of Procrastination – and how to overcome it

4 Causes of Procrastination – and how to overcome it

Procrastination is a common human experience that we’re all prone to. As children, we put off doing chores and homework even though we might get in trouble. As adults, procrastination can affect us at work, home, in our personal lives and even our health and finances. It can take the form of putting of daily tasks (like washing the dishes) for a short period of time, or putting off bigger tasks (like getting a check-up at the doctor) over a longer period of time. 

Even the most hardworking, organized and disciplined people struggle with procrastination because it has very little to do with laziness, poor time management or a lack of discipline. Procrastination is simply an unhealthy coping mechanism used to handle difficult emotions or situations. Identifying the reason for your procrastination is the first step to getting back on track with the things you want to do.

If procrastination is a habitual part of your life or you’ve been procrastinating for an abnormally long time, it can be described as chronic. This is a common issue for people with ADHD and other mental health concerns. Key indicators can be a habit of being late for meetings or missing deadlines. It can also show up as putting things off in multiple areas of your life – at work, at home, in relationships, etc. 

When procrastination begins to negatively affect your mental or physical health, your finances or your relationships, you may wish to start working with a therapist. This can help you to uncover the reasons for your procrastination, adjust your mindset and take the first step towards achieving your goals. 

Here are four of the most common causes of procrastination. 

Perfectionism and Procrastination

Perfectionism can show up in different ways. You may be waiting for the “perfect” time to do something, even though there will never be such a time. You may be so desirous of a perfect outcome that you spend excessive amounts of time in the planning phase, but the actual task is being put off. Perfectionists are prone to all or nothing thinking, where something is either perfect or terrible, with no in-between. Quite often, they will procrastinate because they fear they will be unable to meet the unreasonable standards they set for themselves. They won’t be able to do it perfectly, so they avoid doing it at all. 

If this feels familiar, remind yourself that done is better than perfect. Embrace the concept of “good enough” and lower your unreasonable standards. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be good enough. A slightly flawed completed task is better than one you’ve been putting off because it needs to be flawless.

Fear of Failure

Fear of failure is one of the most common causes of procrastination. When we are afraid of a negative outcome, we will naturally try to avoid it. When you put off a task, you are trying to delay the failure that becomes a possibility once the task is complete. By changing your attitude towards failure, you may be able to break the procrastination habit. Remind yourself that every successful person has faced significant setbacks and losses along the way. Failure represents a unique learning opportunity. With the knowledge you gained from a failure, you’ll have a better chance of success next time around.

Lack of Resources or Information

Another common reason for procrastination is simply feeling that you are ill-equipped to handle a task. Maybe you don’t have sufficient information or you find the task confusing. When we don’t know how to begin a task, it’s easy to keep putting it off. By gaining clarity, we feel a lot more confident in our ability to perform.

If you’re procrastinating because of a lack of clarity (such as not knowing the process to do something or how to access the tools you need), make it a priority to seek information. For example, many people delay planning for retirement because they think it’s too complicated or expensive. By making just one phone call, you’ll find out that it’s a lot easier than you think.  Do your research and ask questions to ensure you have all the information you need to confidently get started. 

Low Self-Esteem and procrastination

Low self-esteem can lead to procrastination when we doubt our ability to perform. If we believe that we aren’t competent, intelligent or skilled enough to do something, it makes sense that we would avoid that thing. By not facing the task, we don’t have to feel the difficult and unpleasant emotional effects of low self-esteem. 

Building healthy self-esteem is a continuous process of changing the way your feel about yourself. An effective way of doing that is by providing yourself with evidence of your worth. By starting and completing a task, you’re showing yourself that you have a lot to be proud of. 

Strategies for Reducing Procrastination

It’s normal to procrastinate from time to time. First, ask yourself if you genuinely need a break and if so, give yourself guilt-free permission to relax. Burnout can lead to a lack of motivation or energy and can make it difficult to start or finish tasks. Rest is an important element of productivity, since we need to be well rested to do our best work. If you don’t need to rest, try to devise a strategy to start. Starting is the hardest part and a task begins to feel more manageable once we’ve gotten over that first hurdle. 

Taking a small first step is often all that we need to get the momentum going. If you’ve been putting off cleaning your home, try starting with just one corner or one sink. Set a timer for five minutes and pick up as many items as possible. If you feel like stopping after completing your small step, it’s okay to do that. Quite often, we want to continue once we’ve gotten started. If you feel motivated to keep going, go for it! 

Working with a therapist is an excellent way to address your procrastination. You’ll have professional guidance as you discover the causes of this habit and how it may be linked to your mental health or past experiences. Using CBT or other techniques, a therapist can also help you to improve your mindset about perfectionism, failure and your views on yourself and your work. 

Contact us today to schedule your first session. 

How to Identify and Address Intrusive Thoughts

How to Identify and Address Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are those thoughts that pop into your head seemingly out of nowhere. They happen automatically and can happen at any time. These thoughts are usually unwanted, unpleasant or even painful. Intrusive thoughts are often repetitive in nature and usually come in the form of mental images or statements said to yourself.

These thoughts are normal and most of the time, they come and go without causing us much distress. They become a problem when they are too intense, when they start to negatively impact our behavior or when they cause us to harm ourselves and others. 

Why Does This Happen?

Everyone experiences intrusive thoughts from time to time. Sometimes, they are unpleasant or embarrassing memories or replaying scary or traumatic situations. Intrusive thoughts do not always indicate an underlying mental health condition and are not always indicative of a need for medical attention. But if your thoughts are very intense or have been affecting you for a prolonged period of time, it can be a sign of a mental health condition. 

People living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often experience flashbacks and other intrusive thoughts connected to the traumatic event. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is known to cause uncontrollable and obsessive intrusive thoughts that may cause you to take certain actions (compulsions) in an effort to stop the obsessive thoughts. People who have developed an eating disorder commonly experience overwhelming thoughts about food, their health and their bodies. 

Common intrusive thoughts

People have intrusive thoughts about all sorts of things and these thoughts are usually unique to their personal circumstances. For those who have experienced trauma, it’s normal to have recurring intrusive thoughts related to the event, including flashbacks or ruminating on how you could have avoided the event or done things differently. People with low self-esteem often feel like there’s a bully in their head. These intrusive thoughts tend to be self-deprecating in nature and can lead to decreased feelings of worth. 

Many people have intrusive thoughts about death and may fear that they are going to get into an accident or that someone will harm them. Other people may have intrusive thoughts about catching a disease or being poisoned. It’s also quite common to have thoughts of committing illegal or violent acts, whether against yourself or others. Sexual thoughts are also very common. Many people experience unwanted or inappropriate thoughts or images of sex. For example, heterosexual people may have an intrusive homosexual thoughts or vice versa. Or you may have an intrusive sexual thought about an inappropriate person like a family member.

It’s always important to remember that you did not cause your intrusive thoughts. They happen automatically and they are normal. Most of these thoughts are never acted upon. Intrusive thoughts become harmful when they become obsessive or when they begin to negatively influence our behavior. 

Three-Step Method for Addressing Intrusive Thoughts

  1. Don’t try to suppress the thought

It’s normal to want to suppress an unpleasant thought when it pops up. Sometimes we even physically shake or hit our heads, trying to get the thought out. But this is a counterproductive strategy that can lead to even more rumination. Here’s an example:

Don’t think about purple elephants. Are you envisioning a purple elephant right now? Are you able to get yourself to stop? Probably not. 

Suppressing an intrusive thought tends to have the boomerang effect of the thought continually returning to you. By suppressing a thought, we are actually thinking about the thought, which can turn into a cycle of rumination. 

2. Label the thought

A critical step to addressing and eliminating these thoughts is to acknowledge and label them. When you realize that you are having one of these thoughts, it can be helpful to say to yourself or out loud “I am having an intrusive thought.” This can help to prevent you from attaching yourself to the thought. You are aware of exactly what it is, so you are better able to control it. Some people even give these thoughts a name to separate themselves from the thought. 

For example, you can decide to call the intrusive voice in your head after a villain in a childhood cartoon. When the thought pops up, you can say to yourself “That’s just a Plankton thought.” This simple strategy is helpful for both children and adults.

3. Talk to the thought

Now it’s time to actually address the thought. Talk to it as if it were a separate body. Let it know that it’s not wanted or helpful right now. Let it know that you’re aware that it’s just an intrusive thought and that you don’t have to attach yourself to it. If you’ve named the thought, you can address it by name. 

By practicing this three-step method when unwanted thoughts arise, you may notice over time that you’re less affected by your thoughts. By simply acknowledging and addressing them, you can take back your power.

If you have been struggling with uncontrollable, intense or unbearable intrusive thoughts, or if you are worried that these thoughts may cause you ongoing distress, it’s important to seek help. By working with a therapist, you can uncover the root of your unpleasant thoughts and develop actionable skills and strategies for addressing, minimizing or eliminating intrusive thoughts. 

Contact us today to schedule your first session. 

5 Signs of an Unhealthy and Toxic Friendship

5 Signs of an Unhealthy and Toxic Friendship

Though your love life may take up much of your time and energy, platonic relationships also play a significant role in overall happiness and emotional wellbeing. A toxic friendship is draining and distressing. For many of us, friendships are a primary relationship, and we interact with friends more than we do with family members or even romantic partners. Friendships often span long periods of our lives and it’s common to have friendships dating back to your childhood, high school or college years.

Just as with any type of relationship, a friendship requires mutual respect and effort. A healthy friendship is filled with kindness, support and companionship. While you may experience the occasional rough patch or disagreement, you should generally feel a sense of comfort, ease and contentment in your friendships. If you notice that you’re feeling anxious around a friend, stop and ask yourself why. These feelings of discomfort shouldn’t be ignored and are usually your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong.

Here are five of the most common signs of an unhealthy or toxic friendship.

Competition in a Toxic Friendship

A bit of healthy competition can go a long way in helping you to reach your goals. For example, friends who workout together can push each other to remain motivated on a fitness journey. Competition becomes unhealthy when a friend is always trying to “one-up” you or minimize your achievements. A toxic friend is always trying to “win” and will compare aspects of your life to theirs. Examples include competing for the attention of a potential romantic partner or trying to prove that they are more financially stable or professionally successful.

Friends should support each other and there should be no feelings of unhealthy competition between friends. If you get the sense that your friend is threatened by your success, this could be the sign of an unhealthy dynamic or toxic friendship.

Bullying or Teasing

While “roasting” or good-natured teasing between friends can be fun, it should not go as far as bullying. If your friend’s teasing is mean-spirited or if they touch on a topic that’s known to be extra sensitive, this is a definite red flag. Your friend should not cause you to feel embarrassed in front of others and their “jokes” should not hurt your feelings.

It’s possible that your friend may not be aware of the effect they are having on you. Have a conversation about it. If your friend tells you to “lighten up” or says you’re being too sensitive, this is a relationship that you may want to reconsider. A good friend would never intentionally harm you or ignore a request to stop saying hurtful things.

Disrespecting Boundaries

Friends should respect your boundaries and should not cause you to feel uncomfortable or violated. This can show up in many ways. It can be as simple as repeatedly trying to convince you to do something you’ve said you don’t want to do. Maybe they’re always bringing up a topic that they know is triggering or upsetting for you. Invasions of privacy such as reading your journal or going through your phone are unacceptable. Time-based boundaries are disrespected when a friend keeps calling you during times you’ve told them you are unavailable due to work or family obligations. Emotional boundaries are disrespected when someone keeps pushing you to talk about something you are not comfortable discussing.

When your boundaries are disrespected, it can trigger feelings of anxiety and frustration. If this kind of behavior continues even after clearly communicating your needs, you may wish to detach from this person.

Peer Pressure in a toxic friendship

A good friend will not try to pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do. This can take the form of pressuring you to go to an event when you’ve said you’d rather stay home. Maybe they’ve tried to convince you to drink, smoke or try drugs when that’s not really your thing. Friends should respect your preferences and decisions and should not try to impose their will on you.

On the other hand, positive peer pressure can be a very healthy and helpful aspect of a friendship. Friends can push each other to study hard, exercise, get out of debt or save money. It’s always a good sign when friends inspire you to make positive or healthy changes in your life.

Jealousy

Jealousy is a normal human emotion and doesn’t automatically indicate a toxic or unhealthy friendship. The red flag is in the way the jealousy is handled. Let’s say your friend just landed an amazing new job, while you’ve been job hunting for months without success. It’s completely understandable that you may feel a twinge of jealousy or envy, though you’re happy for your friend. In a healthy friendship, you should be able to say “I’m super happy about your new job, but I’m bummed with how my job search is going.” Your friend should be able to emotionally support you through your job hunt, while you celebrate their new job. Jealousy and envy become unhealthy when they turn into resentment, sabotage or belittlement.

The other side of this coin is that friends should not try to make you jealous. A good friend would not deliberately brag about their new job because they want you to feel badly about your job hunt. A friend should exercise sensitivity in moments like these. There should be a healthy balance between sharing their good news and commiserating with you.

Have you been feeling unfulfilled, uncomfortable or disrespected in your friendships? Do you want to learn how to set boundaries and build more meaningful connections? By working with a therapist, you’ll have an objective and professional third party helping you to evaluate your relationships. If you choose to end a friendship, it’s a good idea to have professional support as you navigate the aftermath. Contact us today to schedule your first session.

How To Spot Signs of Codependency In Your Relationships

How To Spot Signs of Codependency In Your Relationships

Codependency is an unhealthy dynamic that can appear in any kind of relationship. Simply put, a codependent relationship is one where one person is always getting their needs met, while the other person thrives off the feeling of being needed. The second person is considered the codependent partner because their moods, behaviors and sense of identity are all dependent on the other person’s reliance on them. They need to be needed. Both parties enable each other and this kind of dynamic often persists for many years. Eventually, they become so enmeshed that they are no longer able to function independently or to have a sense of identity that is not tied to the relationship and to the other person. 

The term “codependency” was originally used to describe the relationship between substance abusers and good-intentioned loved ones who ultimately enable the behavior. Now we know that codependency can be present in all kinds of relationships, and in circumstances where substance abuse is not an issue. Though codependency is most common in romantic relationships, it can also manifest in platonic friendships and familial relationships.

There are many factors that can lead to the development of a codependent personality. A common cause of codependency in adulthood is a dysfunctional or traumatic childhood. Children whose emotional needs were unmet become adults who believe that their needs are not important. Children who were put under tremendous pressure to perform or impress their parents become adults who constantly seek external validation. 

Unless there is a deliberate effort to change, a person with a codependent personality will continue to exhibit this behavior with other people in subsequent relationships throughout their life. Working with a therapist is one of the most effective ways to identify how codependency shows up in your life and determine possible root causes. By working with a mental health professional, you can learn to overcome codependent behavior so you can have healthier, more fulfilling relationships. 

What does codependency look like? Here are a few traits that are characteristic of people with codependent personalities. 

Difficulty making decisions without external input

At its core, codependency stems from an impaired sense of identity. Someone with a codependent personality focuses most of their energy on other people, while neglecting their own needs. They often consider other people’s comfort or preferences ahead of their own, which can easily result in feeling like their needs and opinions are not important. Over time, this tends to result in a lack of trust in your own judgment and your ability to make the best decisions for yourself. You rely more on external input than your own knowledge. 

While it’s normal (and often smart) to consult with trusted friends and relatives regarding major decisions, only you know what’s best for you. Only you will have to live with the aftereffects of your decisions. Trust that you are wise enough to make decisions and strong enough to handle whatever comes next. 

Inability to set healthy boundaries

Codependency can be described as a repeated pattern of exercising poor boundaries. People with a codependent personality typically put other people’s needs ahead of their own, making it difficult to say no or otherwise assert yourself. This can begin showing up in everyday interactions, such as being afraid to ask a stranger to stop standing so close to you or being fearful of telling coworkers that you will not be available for calls on the weekend. By learning how to set and enforce healthy boundaries, you are taking a major step towards overcoming codependency. 

Feeling a need to always be in a relationship

Codependency stems from a poor sense of self and a need to control or fixate on other people.   It’s also characterized by tying your feelings of self-worth to the opinions of others or your ability to take care of someone else. Without this source of validation, codependent people are often unable to find a sense of wholeness or purpose. When faced with solitude, they may start feeling very uncomfortable, as codependent behavior is usually an attempt to avoid yourself, your thoughts and your life. For this reason, codependent people are always searching for another source of external validation to distract themselves. 

A pattern of taking on the problems of others

It’s very common for codependent people to feel an obligation to save or protect others. They will become consumed by the other person’s problems and feel as though it’s their responsibility to find or create solutions. This behavior often coincides with the codependent person neglecting their own problems or needs. What may have been intended as a well-meaning offer of assistance can result in controlling or possessive behavior as you seek to solve the problems of others. 

Sometimes, a codependent person may link their own self-worth to the successes and failures of others. This results in an even greater investment in “fixing” other people, because it creates a feeling of accomplishment. 

Feeling guilty for asserting yourself

Because codependents are always putting others before themselves, it can be nearly impossible for them to put themselves first. Situations requiring assertiveness may cause a deep sense of dread or anxiety. Even after they take the plunge, they often feel like they’ve done something wrong or bad or that they will be punished for speaking up. 

It’s not unusual to be afraid to assert yourself, but if you’re left with a feeling of guilt or shame, you may be exhibiting a sign of codependency. Deep down, codependent people do not believe that their needs matter as much as those of other people. This is why asserting needs is so difficult for those with a codependent personality. 

Recovery from Codependency

If you’ve recognized signs of codependency in your relationships, it’s a good idea to work with a therapist to address and overcome this dynamic. By tackling codependency in your individual therapy sessions, you will notice not only a reduction in codependent thoughts and behaviors, but also increased confidence and self-esteem as you discover your own worth, independent of anyone else’s approval. 

For couples who wish to work together to repair a codependent relationship, couple’s counseling provides a safe, supportive environment for growth and healing. 

The therapists at Flourish Psychology are trained in a variety of treatment modalities that can be used to address and modify codependent patterns. Contact us today to schedule your first session. 

Lessons About Burnout from Olympic Athletes

Lessons About Burnout from Olympic Athletes

Before the French Open earlier this year, Japanese tennis phenom Naomi Osaka announced that she would not be conducting her mandatory media assignments. Citing mental health issues, Osaka did not participate in press conferences and other interactions with the media. She was fined and threatened with expulsion from the tournament. Shortly after, she announced that she would be withdrawing from the competition, again citing mental health issues. In mid-June, she announced (via her agent) that she would not be participating in the upcoming Wimbledon Championships. Naomi was experiencing burnout.

In the last week of June, celebrated gymnast Simone Biles stepped down at the Tokyo Olympic Games due to physical and mental health concerns and a need to protect her wellbeing. Biles was quoted as saying “People have to realize that we’re humans, we’re not just entertainment.”

Announcements like these were previously unheard of in the world of professional sports. While it’s the norm for athletes to take time off for physical injuries or to have a baby, there has been very little conversation around how mental health challenges can affect athletes and the need to take a break to preserve mental and emotional wellbeing. The back-to-back announcements from both athletes has sparked a much-needed conversation about mental health in the world of athletics and in the lives of everyday people. 

The Negative Impact of Stigma

Mental health stigma has been around for about as long as human beings have existed. For centuries of human history, people with mental illnesses have been misunderstood, discriminated against and stigmatized. Stigma is one of the reasons that it’s so hard to seek help for mental health issues. Though both athletes received an outpouring of support, they also received quite a bit of scrutiny.  There is an expectation placed on athletes to be strong and to push through difficulties no matter what. 

In the same way that Osaka and Biles have faced scrutiny, you may have faced similar responses from colleagues, friends or family members when you’ve opened up about mental health issues. Maybe you’re afraid to open up because of the reaction you’re expecting. By speaking up and seeking help when you need it, you’re showing incredible bravery.

Ease Burnout By Taking a Break

You don’t have to be an Olympian to have experienced significant stress or pressure. The demands of work, school, family, finances and other obligations can take a serious toll on your mental health. By pushing yourself too far, you risk becoming burned out, which can leave you feeling exhausted, empty and distant. 

Burnout is a normal reaction to prolonged stress and in a workplace context, it’s often accompanied by feelings of exhaustion, cynicism and reduced job performance. When experiencing burnout, you can start feeling alienated or removed from workplace activities and everything can start to feel pretty pointless. You may feel physically tired or may experience other physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches or digestive issues. 

Taking regular breaks is one of the best ways to prevent burnout and to care for your mental health. Use this time to relax, reflect, pause and return to work with increased energy and a more positive perspective. Breaks also help to improve our performance on the job, since working with a balanced and clear mind will lead to better results. 

Easy Ways to Incorporate Rest 

A break doesn’t have to come in the form of a weeklong vacation. Mini-breaks are very effective at helping you to manage your stress levels. Try taking breaks throughout your workday. After every hour of work, take a ten-minute break to stretch your legs, drink some water or go to the bathroom. When it’s your lunch hour, try to put your work away so you can truly enjoy your lunch and maybe take some time to chat with coworkers or read a chapter of a book. These short breaks are surprisingly impactful when it comes to reducing your day-to-day stress. 

Are you able to use your weekends more effectively to get in more rest? For many of us, weekends are a time to get things done that we weren’t able to do during the week. By shifting some of these tasks to weekdays, you can free up valuable time on Saturdays and Sundays that can be used for rest or leisure. Maybe you usually do grocery shopping on Saturday mornings. Is it possible to go one day after work so you can free up two hours on Saturdays? How about shifting tasks like laundry or vacuuming to weekdays?

Seeking Help for Workplace Burnout

Work is a significant aspect of our lives. We spend a lot of our time at work and for many of us, our career forms a large part of our identity and contributes to an overall feeling of satisfaction with life. If you’ve been feeling stressed or burnt out at work and think you may be reaching a breaking point, it’s time to reach out for help. 

Firstly, what kind of help can you get from friends and loved ones in terms of emotional and moral support. Having a community is vital when going through stressful times. It may be tempting to isolate yourself, but try to reach out or to be responsive when others reach out. 

Next, consider how viable it is to speak to HR about your work situation. Could it be possible to shift some responsibilities to a coworker who may have less on their plate? Is your manager or supervisor aware of your stress? If you’re constantly working overtime on a particular project, could it be that enough resources haven’t been allocated to the project? Have a conversation about your concerns to determine if any changes can be made. 

Working with a therapist is one of the most effective ways to manage workplace stress and burnout. The clinicians at Flourish Psychology understand the impact of a fulfilling career on your overall wellbeing. We want to help you to do your best work so you can live your best life.  Whether you’re handling workplace anxiety, considering transitioning into a new career or struggling to find work-life balance, we can provide expert guidance and support to lead you towards a career that brings more joy. 

By working with a therapist, you’re better able to ensure that you’re happy and fulfilled at work and in the other areas of your life. Contact us today to get started. 

how to figure out how long therapy will take

how to figure out how long therapy will take

Many people contemplating starting therapy may be wondering how long it takes to work. This is a reasonable question to ask as you prepare to invest in your mental health. You may be wondering how much of your time you will need to commit and there are also financial considerations. 

Although the average person spends about twelve sessions in therapy, it really isn’t one-size-fits-all. We all have different needs, goals and unique characteristics that make therapy look different for each person. The amount of time spent in therapy is dependent on factors such as the treatment method being used, the condition being treated and the patient’s personal history.

Some people begin therapy with specific goals in mind and others are just looking to make general improvements to their mental health. For this reason, people may either attend therapy for a definite period of time, or may go to therapy on a regular schedule for an indefinite period of time.Because the therapy journey is so different for everyone, it’s hard to pinpoint a definite timeframe for treatment. Here are a few things to consider when trying to estimate how long therapy may take. 

There’s No “Finish Line” with Therapy

Think about your general practitioner or another medical professionally you see regularly. How often you visit them depends on your needs and your health situation. For example, if you’re actively treating a current illness, you may be making regular, frequent visits. When you’re not experiencing an illness, you may go in once a year for a checkup. 

It’s the same with seeing a mental health professional. There’s no real “finish line” when it comes to mental health. Many people develop long term relationships with mental health professionals and see them as needed throughout the course of their lives. Others attend therapy for a set number of sessions that was pre-determined by the clinician. 

Treatment Time Depends on Many Factors

Treatment time is dependent on several factors, including the condition being treated, the kind of treatment being used and the patient’s individual history. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective short-term form of psychotherapy that is usually completed in about twelve weekly sessions. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy can last anywhere from three to twelve sessions, depending on the type of trauma being treated. 

Treatment time can also depend on the condition being treated. For example, treating Borderline Personality Disorder with psychotherapy can take about six months, which is the average time taken to complete a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy course. Treating a mental health disorder with therapy doesn’t mean that the condition will go away. It just means that you’ll be in a better position to manage and minimize the symptoms after you leave the clinician’s office. You can use techniques and skills learned in therapy throughout the rest of your life.

The biggest determining factor is YOU. You get to choose how long you continue going to therapy based on your needs. Some people have been seeing a therapist one per week or every other week for years, even if they are not experiencing any serious mental health issues. Some people begin seeing a therapist once per week and gradually decrease the frequency to biweekly, then once per month, then a few times per year. 

How to Tell If It’s Working

How can you track your progress to determine if therapy is making positive changes in your life? The easiest way is to ask yourself how you feel. After a few sessions of therapy, many people feel a sense of relief or begin feeling more hopeful about the future. Just knowing that you’ve taken such an important first step can cause a significant improvement in your mood. As you continue going to sessions, you may feel yourself becoming more comfortable discussing topics that were once quite difficult to talk about. 

Although therapy cannot change the external factors that may influence your mental heath (such as your finances, job or relationships), it can equip you with the tools to manage the challenges that arise in your life. If you notice that you’re better able to cope when things go wrong or whole going through a rough patch, it’s a sure sign that you’re making progress in therapy. 

With effective therapy, you’ll also notice your habits and behaviors slowly changing. Maybe you’re able to make healthier choices or you’re stepping away from harmful or unhealthy habits, people or places. You may notice that you’re better able to effectively communicate your needs and set boundaries with the people in your life. Therapy can bring about an improvement in your self esteem and a significant reduction in negative or intrusive thoughts. 

Another way to know that therapy is working is when  you find yourself applying tangible skills learned in therapy when you’re on your own. Maybe you’re using CBT techniques to challenge anxious thoughts before a job interview or using DBT skills to self-soothe during a rough day. By learning skills and techniques in therapy, you’re teaching yourself to be more self-sufficient when your session is over. 

A Commitment to Mental Health

While it’s a valid question to ask, try to pay more attention to making a commitment to your mental health than to checking off a certain number of therapy sessions on your calendar. Listen to yourself and do your best to honor your own needs. If you’re going through a particularly rough period such as a divorce, miscarriage or the death of a loved one, you may need more frequent visits until after you’ve processed the event. As you begin to heal, you may want to talk to your therapist about decreasing the frequency of sessions. 

How Long is Too Long?

When it comes to therapy, quality is more important than quantity. This means that the most important consideration isn’t length of treatment time, but whether you are experiencing improvements in the quality of your mental health. With that said, if you’ve been in therapy for several sessions and you aren’t feeling better, it’s time to tell your therapist. Your therapist can adjust the treatment plan so that it is more effective for you. If you simply aren’t feeling a connection with your therapist, it’s okay to bring this up so that you can switch to a clinician who is a better fit. 

When you’re ready to begin your therapy journey, the clinicians at Flourish Psychology stand ready to help you meet your goals. Take the first step by scheduling your first session