Healing has a different meaning to each of us. It can be healing from the end of a long relationship, managing panic attacks, reducing intrusive thoughts, lessening the symptoms of our anxiety, and more. Healing comes in stages just like actual wounds. It starts with us recognizing there is a wound, finding ways to care and heal for the wound, taking the action step even if it is a band-aid, then at a certain point, removing the bandage to allow for further healing.
Here are some common steps in healing that you may experience during therapy:
Awareness: In this stage, you will become aware of your mental health symptoms, emotions, and patterns of behavior possibly more if you are already seeing how the symptoms may be in the way of reaching certain goals. You will then start to understand how these symptoms are impacting their life and relationships. (Similar to the wound analogy earlier, this is the stage of identifying and being aware that there is a wound).
Acceptance: Once you become aware of your symptoms, we will work on building acceptance through therapy. This can involve acknowledging that you are struggling and that seeking help is a positive step toward healing. (In the wound analogy, this is that part right in between of recognizing and looking for solutions, acceptance falls in between there).
Exploration: In this stage, you will work with your therapist to explore the underlying causes of your mental health symptoms. You may explore past experiences, relationships, and patterns of thinking that contribute to their current difficulties. You may also explore strategies to help with symptoms you are experiencing. (In the wound analogy, this is finding ways to care and heal).
Action: Once you have gained insight into your symptoms and the underlying causes, you will start taking action to address your mental health. This may involve developing coping strategies, making lifestyle changes, or setting boundaries in relationships. (In the wound analogy, this is the action step, putting things into motion)
Integration: Finally there is the part about integrating everything. You will work to integrate what you have learned in therapy into your daily life. All of this takes practice and your therapist will be there will you along the way to help.
It's important to note that everyone's healing journey is unique, and the stages of healing may vary depending on individual circumstances and goals. Therapy is a collaborative process, and individuals may work through these stages at their own pace with the support of their therapist.
I also wanted to point out a question I have been asked before when it comes to addressing mental health symptoms.
“If I just ignored what is going on, it will just go away, right?”
Ignoring mental health symptoms won't make them go away because mental health issues are not like physical illnesses that can heal on their own over time. Mental health symptoms are often a sign that there is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. We are so up close to ourselves (literally!) that it is really hard to see what is going on underneath. Ignoring these symptoms may cause them to become more severe and challenging to manage over time.
For example, if someone is experiencing symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks, avoidance of certain situations, or excessive worry, and they ignore these symptoms, they may become more severe and interfere with their ability to function in their daily life. The longer someone waits to address their symptoms, the more difficult it may be to manage them, and the more likely they are to experience negative consequences, such as social isolation, difficulty maintaining relationships, or problems at work.
Ignoring mental health symptoms can also lead to a cycle of negative thoughts and behaviors, where the symptoms themselves can trigger additional stress, anxiety, or depression, making it even more difficult to break the cycle of negative emotions and behaviors. It's important to address mental health symptoms as soon as possible to prevent them from becoming more severe and negatively impacting your life.
Coming back to the healing process: Therapy is beneficial for healing because it provides a safe and supportive environment where individuals can explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Here are some specific reasons why therapy is helpful for healing:
Increased self-awareness: In therapy, you will gain insight into your mental health symptoms, triggers, and patterns of behavior. This increased self-awareness can help you make positive changes in your life and relationships.
Improved coping skills: Therapists help teach you coping skills and strategies to manage your mental health symptoms, such as mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and cognitive restructuring.
Safe and supportive environment: Therapy provides a safe and supportive space where you are able to express yourself without fear of judgment. Therapists are trained to listen and offer guidance without imposing their own beliefs or values.
Personal growth: Therapy will help you develop new perspectives and insights into themselves and your life experiences. This can lead to personal growth and a greater sense of self-awareness and self-acceptance.
Improved relationships: Therapy will help you improve their communication skills and develop healthier relationships with others. This can lead to greater social support and improved mental health outcomes.
Overall, therapy is beneficial in helping you begin and continue the healing process as it provides a safe and supportive environment where you are able to explore your mental health concerns and develop coping skills and strategies to manage your symptoms. Therapy will help you make positive changes in your life, relationships, and overall well-being.
Blog Disclaimer - These posts are not meant to treat, diagnose, or serve as a replacement for therapy. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, please contact your local crisis center or dial 911. Here are more immediate resources as well.