For those who are new to therapy, you may be curious about how they should spend their time in-between sessions. Usually, you could use this time to make progress by thinking about what was discussed and how to start implementing coping strategies. In most cases though, you probably are just going to go about your normal life.
However, there may times when you feel worse after a session and are struggling until you meet with your therapist again. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with feeling this way. After all, therapy isn’t a cakewalk. In fact, you feel worse before you start feeling better.
If you feel this way, first be gentle with yourself and let your therapist know so that you can both develop coping strategies based on your specific needs and interests. They may even suggest that you contact under the right circumstances. Of course, if it’s an emergency you must contact 911 immediately.
But, if it’s not a crisis, you can try using the following strategies in-between sessions to reduce stress and anxiety, while also helping you progress in your journey.
Actively apply your therapist’s advice.
“Most of the work of therapy happens outside the consultation room,” licensed clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D., told SELF. “The best progress happens when you apply what you’ve learned outside that setting, in your real life.”
“There are 168 hours in a week,” adds licensed clinical psychologist John Mayer, Ph.D., author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life“It would be terribly arrogant on the part of a therapist to believe that your one-hour intervention will suffice to keep your clients mentally healthy for the rest of the 167 hours.”
As such, therapists may recommend that use the following tactics in your daily life:
Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal.
When you’re stressed, find ways to put a positive spin on it.
Taking daily, low-key walks.
Practicing coping skills, like breathing exercises.
Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
If you’re stuck in negative thoughts, write down two good things.
Have a self-care arsenal, like taking a bath or watching a funny YouTube video.
Reassure and soothe your inner voice.
Ditch bad habits, like reducing your alcohol intake.
Have a bedtime ritual.
Distractions can be used to help you focus on something else. Examples could be doing laundry, playing games, reading, cleaning your bathroom, planning a vacation, or volunteering. Most of these are simple and effective items that you in a short amount of time.
Find additonal support.
If you’re still feeling overwhelming, there are also a number of support tools at your disposal. These can include your support system like a family member or friend that you can talk to. There are also virtual options such as:
Mental health care apps like Calm, Headspace, notOK, or Happify.
Virtual therapy including BetterHelp or Talkspace where you can talk to a therapist 24/7.
Online communities and support groups. Visit Mental Health America to find a group that fits your needs.
Crisis hotlines, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).
Final words of advice.
Again, make sure that you let your therapist know that you’re struggling between therapy sessions so that they can make suggestions on what you can do. You may even want to ask them for “homework,” like creating a list of topics you want to discuss.
Most importantly, if you feel that things are getting too unbearable for you, immediately you reach out to someone for help whether if that’s your therapist, best friend, family member, 911, or a crisis hotline.