This past summer, I decided to go back to therapy. It had been a few years since I’d seen someone on a regular basis, and I thought I’d benefit from talking to someone about some of the life changes that were happening at the time. There have been many positive things that came out of my therapy sessions in the past nine months, and I can tell that a big benefit of therapy is talking to someone on a semi-regular basis. But over time, I also noticed how my goals for therapy shifted, which is what I’d like to talk about today.
Before I talk about my therapy goals, I want to make the distinction the type of therapy I was receiving and my personal goals for therapy. I’ve written about some of the most effective forms of talk therapy before, and my decision to switch to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). ACT “uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies, together with commitment and behavior change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility” (according to the ACBS), while CBT focuses on changing existing thinking patterns.
I always thought the type of therapy I was receiving had to line up directly with my personal goals for therapy, but over time I’ve learned I was wrong. I don’t need any special reason to see a therapist, or to talk about my mental health with a professional. The only reason I need to speak to someone is because I want to focus on my mental wellness. That’s why, in the last year, my goals for therapy have changed.
I’ve accepted the fact that my mental health journey will probably be a lifelong journey, and that’s fine with me. I realized that in accepting that, I had to change my approach to mental wellness so it would work better for me. For the most part, this changed approach shows up in little areas – focusing on the language I use, figuring out how to handle mental health setbacks, managing panic or anxiety attacks as they happen. Now, I’m realizing it’s also changed my approach to therapy.
A few weeks ago on Twitter (hopefully one day I can find this tweet again!), I saw someone post about therapy. Someone had asked them why they went to therapy if there was nothing “wrong,” and they responded by asking that person why they go to the gym for physical exercise even if they’re already in good health. I love that metaphor because it perfectly describes how my therapy goals have changed.
I might have gone back into therapy because I thought I “needed” it, but by that criteria, I’ll always need to see a therapist. Now, I make sure I go on a more regular basis so I have a space to talk about myself in an intentional way that’s focused on wellness. Living with mental health conditions requires ongoing work, and this is one of those areas. I’ve built up a lot of strength over the years, and therapy can be an excellent way to maintain that mental strength. Hopefully this will help me take some of the pressure off my therapy sessions going forward.
What about you all, friends? Have your therapy goals ever changed while you were seeing a therapist? Let me know in the comments!