therapist is the right fit

How To Know If Your Therapist Is The Right Fit (+ 5 Red Flags)

Therapy is an incredibly valuable experience that can bring tremendous benefits to your life.

How much you get out of therapy depends on many factors, from how much effort you put into it to how good of a fit your therapist is for your needs and goals. Multiple studies consistently show that one of the strongest predictors of successful treatment is the quality of a therapeutic relationship between a psychotherapist and a client. In short, finding a therapist that is the right fit for you is one of the most important things for making progress in therapy.

Now, finding the right therapist takes investment – in terms of your time, energy, and finances. Thus, it’s natural that you want to know if you’re working with the right person, so your investments pay off. To make the process a little bit easier, in this article, we are going to discuss:

  1. What are some red flags telling you that your therapist may not be the best choice for you?
  2. How does it look and feel like when you and your therapist are the right fit?
  3. How to know if you are making progress in therapy?

Hopefully, these topics can help you save precious energy in finding the right therapist, or decide if your current therapy journey is going in the right direction.

Psychotherapy Red Flags: 5 Signs That Your Therapist Is NOT The Right Fit For You

Having a bad experience with a therapist is not so common. Research shows that 75% of people who enter therapy benefit from it significantly. Still, it is important to be informed about possible red flags of therapy. Finding them doesn’t always mean that you are working with a bad therapist (although this can be the case). Sometimes, it’s just a case of a wrong fit and someone else’s style and approach would feel better for you personally. But this feeling you have with your therapist is important, and is very informative about whether to stick with them or move on.

If you’re working with a therapist and feel something is off, maybe it’s time to think about discussing it with them or, eventually, finding a new therapist. There is nothing wrong with either.

Here are some things that may be telling you that you are not getting the most out of your therapy sessions.

signs of a bad therapist

1. You don’t feel understood

A good therapist should, first and foremost, be a good listener. If you often feel rushed, if your feelings are minimized or dismissed, it is a red flag.

Sometimes, because of various reasons such as cultural or religious differences, the therapist’s lack of experience with certain issues, or too wide disparities in personalities and views on life, it’s possible to feel like your therapist is not able to fully understand you. It may feel like they are asking the wrong questions most of the time or focusing on the wrong thing. Perhaps you wanted to point out something important but they keep talking about something else that you don’t find relevant, and this repeatedly happens in your sessions. If that is the case, it may be time to move on and find a therapist who you feel is better attuned to your feelings and needs.

2. You feel judged, shamed, or unsafe to share your authentic thoughts and feelings

It is completely normal to be reluctant to share your deepest fears, secrets, and vulnerabilities with a stranger, especially at the beginning of your therapy journey. However, if you feel like your therapist is “looking down” on your issues or tries to lecture you on what is right or wrong, that’s a sign that you should look elsewhere. Therapy should be a place free of judgment, where you feel safe and comfortable. A strong therapeutic alliance is the most pivotal thing for successful therapy. Thus, it is important to find a therapist who you feel accepts you, empathizes with you, and with whom you can be open and honest. If your current therapist is not that person, it may be time to discuss it with them, or try someone new.

3. They keep pushing you to talk about or work on something before you feel ready

Therapy is the place for you to safely explore your thoughts, emotions, memories, patterns… at your own pace. Your therapist will guide and nudge you in a certain direction, but they should respect your pace and your choices. Thus, they should respect if you express that you are uncomfortable working on some themes for now, no matter how important they think discussing them may be. If you feel like they are breaching your boundaries or trying to force you into talking about something you don’t yet feel comfortable working on, it’s a reason for concern.

therapist not the right fit

4. Your personalities are too different

Your therapist is not your friend, but your personalities still need to be compatible to an extent for you to feel like you two are the right fit. Some people like their therapist to use humour, some don’t. Some like their therapist to be informal, talkative, or quirky, others like more of a distanced or directive approach. Not all human beings fit well together, and that’s okay. An important piece of the “finding-the-right-therapist” puzzle is to find someone who you like and feel comfortable talking to.

5. You repeatedly feel frustrated after your sessions

It is not uncommon to feel less-than-great after some therapy sessions. Therapy touches on your sensitive spots and invites you to leave your comfort zone. It’s not always a pleasant experience, but it’s a valuable one, especially in the long run. If your therapist is the right fit, you will usually leave your session feeling better about yourself than when you came in. You may feel emotionally drained or shaken up, but at the same time hopeful or with a sense that you gained some new knowledge. However, if you leave more than half of your sessions frustrated and feeling like you lost your time, it is something that needs to be addressed.

A good therapist will encourage you to speak up when something is not working and discuss with you openly about ways to overcome an issue. They will be highly motivated to make sure that your therapy sessions are beneficial for you. But sometimes, people just don’t “click” and that’s okay. You can take note of which qualities worked and which didn’t. That will be precious when finding your next therapist.

making progress in therapy

Psychotherapy Green Flags: 5 Signs That Your Therapist Is Right For You

Sometimes, we may not be sure what a good therapeutic relationship should look like. This is especially true if we have no previous experience or knowledge to compare it to.

What does it mean that your therapist is the right fit?

What does a good therapist do? How do they behave?

How should you feel with your therapist?

Sometimes, you can’t tell right away. It may take a couple of sessions for you to get comfortable and gain trust. However, after some time, it’s usually not too difficult to recognize if you’re with the right therapist – if you know what to look for. Below are some common therapist green flags that can help you determine whether a relationship with your therapist is a high-quality one.

Disclaimer: we treat it as a given that your therapist is appropriately trained and licensed. When starting therapy, always make sure to ask your therapist about their credentials. 

1. You feel understood and validated

An experienced therapist knows how to listen efficiently. They make you feel heard and understood. They ask the right questions to get to the underlying message behind what you’re saying. Even when they don’t share the same background as you, if they make an effort to understand and be mindful of all aspects of your identity and how it colours your emotions and thoughts, that’s a great sign.

With the right therapist, you feel like they “get” you – they follow your pace and help you gain new perspective. They summarize what you have said in a way that makes sense to you. They ask for clarification. You feel like your experiences are valid because they acknowledge what you say without judgment. You feel seen and accepted, like you can be true you around them.

Again, all these feelings may not come right away; sometimes, it takes a couple of sessions to adjust, gain trust, and get comfortable. Still, the goal is that your therapist provides a safe environment where you feel like you matter.

signs of a good therapist

2. Your therapist is gentle but challenges you as well

In therapy, you may show your vulnerabilities, fears, insecurities, all the sides you’re maybe not often showing to the world. Through this process, your therapist should be an ally. It doesn’t mean they will agree with you all the time. In fact, they may challenge your views or ways you behave, helping you gain new insight or face what you avoid confronting. But they will always do this gently, so you don’t feel attacked or exposed. If you see your therapist as someone who guides you, holds space for you to be yourself and explore what it means, and at the same time encourages you to get out of your comfort zone and face difficult things in your life, it’s your cue that they are the right choice for you.

3. You leave most of your sessions feeling better about yourself or with new tools

Therapy can be painful, uncomfortable, and challenging, because it is where you face your deepest vulnerabilities and memories, and learn to change long-standing patterns. That can be tough! Sometimes, you may leave the session frustrated, tired, or kind of upset. Occasionally, this is normal, and it’s okay to raise this issue with your therapist. If your therapist is the right fit, they will work through these issues with you or, possibly, adjust their approach.

A great therapist is not just a good listener, but he/she provides you with tools and support to change habits, develop new skills, or gain useful insight. They will help you leave most of your sessions with a sense that you have something to work with or think about between your meetings.

signs of a good therapist

4. In difficult situations, you think about what your therapist would suggest you do and find it helpful

At a certain point in therapy, when you’re facing a challenging situation, thinking about what your therapist would suggest or “hearing your therapist’s voice in your head” is natural. This is what is often called “internalization” of your therapist’s voice. The way they relate to you – with compassion, support, and acceptance – is how you slowly start relating to yourself. This is often a transitional period between your previous unhelpful self-talk and the stage where the voice that directs you toward healthy choices becomes completely yours. It’s a positive sign.

5. You notice a positive change in yourself

Therapy is a process. Positive change takes time; it will not happen overnight. Still, with the right therapist, you should notice some improvement after a while (say, after about 10-15 sessions. This, of course, varies greatly from person to person). Even if the problem you came to therapy with may not be solved yet, some positive change is a good sign that you and your therapist are heading in the right direction.

Also, it’s important to know that progress is not linear – some setbacks will occur. Sometimes, you will make different, healthier choices and use tools that you learned in therapy. It will feel great! Other times, you will slip and fall into your old patterns. This is completely normal. Through the process of learning, with support and new knowledge, you will be able to bounce back more quickly than before and relate to yourself in a different, healthier way.

So, what are some indicators telling you that therapy is working?

positive change in psychotherapy

10 Signs That You Are Making Progress In Therapy

There is no universal set of ways to measure progress in therapy and emotional healing. It is individual and depends on your personal goals and needs. Still, as an example, here are 10 common signs you might be making progress in therapy and heading toward improved mental health.

You…

  1. are not as much “in your head” as before
  2. listen to your body’s needs more
  3. start setting healthy boundaries
  4. are able to notice your critical inner voice and challenge it
  5. allow yourself to rest and take care of your needs
  6. are getting better at recognizing your emotions and allowing yourself to feel them
  7. feel your energy levels improved
  8. are more able to create space between an emotion and a reaction instead of being purely reactive
  9. engage in healthy habits more regularly
  10. have more trust in your abilities to cope with challenges.
  11. are having fun again

This, of course, is not an extensive list. It’s a list of common positive changes people experience in therapy. It is a result of putting in the effort to work through the things that hold them back, and doing so with the right therapist.

Notice how something like “being happy all the time” is not on the list. The goal of therapy is NOT to feel only pleasant emotions and stop experiencing unpleasant ones. Instead, the goal is to start relating to your emotions in a different, healthier way and, from there, start making positive changes in your behaviour as well.

Have you ever been to therapy? What is your experience? How do you notice you are making progress in therapy? We’d love to hear your thoughts; please be free to comment down below. Also, if you find this blog post useful, go ahead and share it on your social media.

If you are interested to learn more about therapy and experience it yourself, contact us today. We are here to help.

 

Sources:

Hubble, M. A., Duncan, B. L., & Miller, S. D. (1999). The heart and soul of change: What works in therapy. American Psychological Association. Online HERE

Geller, J., & Farber, B. (1993). Factors influencing the process of internalization in psychotherapy. Psychotherapy Research3(3), 166-180. Online HERE

Wampold, B. E. (2007). Psychotherapy: the humanistic (and effective) treatment. American Psychologist62(8), 857. Online HERE

myths about psychotherapy

8 Common Myths About Therapy (Debunked)

What really happens in therapy?

Thanks to the stigma surrounding psychotherapy that is still, to some extent, present in our society (although this is, fortunately, changing for the better), many people have never seen a therapist and are hesitant to do so, even if they could benefit from it. Add to that sometimes-inaccurate portrayal in the media, and it’s not a surprise why many people have a slightly distorted, or downright wrong picture of psychotherapy. This can discourage people from seeking help when they really need it, and further damage their mental health. Thus, it is important to talk openly about therapy and share accurate information. It can help combat reservations people may have about finding a therapist and getting the right kind of support.

If you’ve never been to therapy and you feel like something is holding you back, maybe it’s worth exploring if you believe some of the common misconceptions about therapy. Here are 8 common myths we’ve heard about psychotherapy (in no particular order), and truths that disprove them.

1. Therapy is for weak people

Maybe the most common myth about therapy is that seeking professional help means that you are somehow weak or flawed. Everyone goes through a rough patch from time to time; that’s part of life, and we don’t have to go through it alone.

But sometimes we try to do exactly that, afraid of what other people might say or what we would think of ourselves if we have chosen otherwise. The truth is that seeking therapy does not mean you are incapable of solving your own problems. Exactly the opposite! You are taking charge of your life by actively improving some parts of it with the help of a professional. You have enough self-awareness to realize that some things are not working the way you’d want them to. Instead of trying to prove yourself as tough, you are choosing to smartly and efficiently get where you want to be. You’re not letting fear hold you back. That pretty much sounds like the opposite of weak, doesn’t it?

misconceptions about therapy

2. You will be lying on a couch

Nowadays, this is very rare. Some psychoanalytically oriented therapists use this approach sometimes as a way to help the client speak more freely about their inner experience, but only if the client feels comfortable with it. Typically, a therapist’s office looks a lot like a living room, where you both sit at a comfortable distance, facing each other. Some therapists take notes during your visit (yes, as you’ve seen in movies :)), others leave that for after the session. It all depends on the therapist’s approach and style, and there are many different ones out there.

3. Therapy is mostly just you talking and the therapist listening. You can do that with a friend.

 While support from friends and family is amazing, sometimes that is not enough to work through some challenges. Your therapist is a professional with years of training, educated to treat cognitive, behavioural, and emotional problems, and will use many different techniques to help you deal with them effectively. Because of their long training and experience, your therapist hears things differently than a non-therapist. For example, you may be upset about others not following the rules, and your therapist may hear a fear of lack of control. Or you may be upset that your partner is going out without you and making new friends, and your therapist may hear a fear of abandonment.

It may look like a casual conversation, but a good therapist is trained to ask intentional questions to help you have a better look at your experiences and emotions and link them together. Exploring deep parts of yourself in a safe, encouraging, non-judgmental environment with the guidance of a professional who is (or should be) unbiased is much different than talking to a friend.

Moreover, a therapeutic relationship is different from all the other relationships in your life. The most obvious difference is that the whole focus of the relationship is on you and your well-being Even when a therapist shares something from their personal experience, it’s you and your goals in mind. A therapeutic relationship is deeply psychologically intimate but also strictly professional. Usually, you can’t be friends outside of therapy (or, at least, not during the course of treatment).

psychotherapy techniques

4. You have to have a major mental health issue or be in a crisis to seek therapy

People come to therapy for various reasons. Indeed, some of these people battle serious mental health issues and might benefit from medication. However, the majority of issues people come with are what you’d call “everyday problems”. Examples include managing stress, navigating transition and change, dealing with grief, finding a work-life balance, overcoming fears, improving relationships, etc. Moreover, many people look for therapy as a preventative measure, or as a way to maintain their mental health.

5. You will have to talk about your childhood

Not necessarily, and not if you don’t want to. There is nothing in therapy you strictly HAVE to do. If you don’t feel ready, a good therapist will not pressure you to talk about your past. Learning about your childhood can help in understanding the patterns of thoughts, emotions, and behaviours you have now, the way you see the world, and the decisions you are making in the present. Our early experiences deeply and powerfully shape our beliefs about relationships, safety, and love. These beliefs further direct what we think we “have to do to earn” those things. Some of these beliefs and tactics serve us well, and some are inaccurate and unhelpful. Nonetheless, we carry them all into adulthood.

For example, if your caretakers encouraged you to “always put others first”, that being kind means accommodating other people’s needs, that saying “no” is rude and you earned punishment for that… you, as a child, quickly learned how to behave to gain their approval. Your nervous system shapes in a way that communicates: “putting others first=mom’s/dad’s approval=safety” and “boundaries and self-care=mom’s/dad’s disapproval=wrong, danger, abort!”. As an adult, you may tend to people-please, be an ‘overgiver’ in relationships, and struggle with setting boundaries. Even if you rationally understand that boundaries are important, your nervous system can still cling to the old patterns. This is why you may feel a knot in your stomach or your heart pounding when you are about to set some personal boundaries, even when you know it’s the right thing to do.

When you understand why you feel or behave a certain way in the present, where the root of the problem is, the path to change becomes clearer. You connect the dots, are more aware of unhelpful patterns in the present and are more able to replace them with more accurate, useful ones, that will serve you better right now.

how therapy works

6. Therapists have ready solutions for your problems and will tell you what to do

Although your therapist knows a lot about what is important for mental health in general, a path to good mental health can be different for different people. A therapist may be an expert in mental health, but the client is an expert in their own life. In therapy, they are two equals who bring their knowledge together to explore the issue and weigh options to find a solution that works well. A good therapist doesn’t work based on a ready-made formula, but tailors treatment around each client’s needs and goals. They won’t give you direct advice. Instead, they will empower you to identify and understand your blocks, and guide you toward finding what’s best for you and trusting your own decisions.

7. Therapy can solve problems in one or two sessions

Usually not. Just like you don’t get a six-pack after one or two sets of crunches, you most probably won’t completely solve the problem you came with after just one session. Therapy is a process. Sometimes it’s a short process, sometimes it’s a longer one, but worth the effort nonetheless.

8. You will always feel better after a therapy session

Many times, you will leave your therapist’s office relieved, hopeful, optimistic, joyful. Other times, uncovering your fears and insecurities, remembering your past, or facing your true emotions, can be a painful experience. Talking about something that has a high emotional impact can be stressful and leave you exhausted. Therapy encourages you to leave your comfort zone, and that is not always a pleasant experience. Sometimes, therapy is described as “a storm that leads into calm”. It is a process in which, at times, things become worse before they become better.

Thus, it is not surprising to, sometimes, leave your therapy session feeling drained. You need time to process and to let things you unpacked fall into their place. It’s part of the healing process. However, if after the majority of your sessions you feel worse, it’s important to raise this issue with your therapist.

 

Do any of these misconceptions sound familiar? What are some myths you’ve heard about psychotherapy? Please let us know in the comment section below.

 

Sources:

Kottler, J. A., & Balkin, R. S. (2020). Myths, misconceptions, and invalid assumptions about counseling and psychotherapy. Oxford University Press, USA.

Wampold, B. E. (2019). The basics of psychotherapy: An introduction to theory and practice. American Psychological Association. Online HERE

what to know before starting therapy

Everything You Wanted To Know Before Starting Therapy

Starting therapy can be difficult, especially if you don’t know what to expect.

○ What does a therapy session look like?

○ What am I supposed to talk about?

○ Will a therapist ask a lot of personal questions?

○ Will I have to talk about my childhood?

To make things a little easier and more familiar, this article is devoted to shedding light on common questions people ask about therapy. When we know what to expect, it becomes a little less challenging.

Therapy is an amazing journey in which you can:

  • get to know yourself
  • share different parts of your life you may not feel comfortable sharing with anyone else
  • explore and understand how and why you do the things you do and feel the things you feel
  • learn to navigate your relationships better
  • work out a particular problem, like resolving a conflict, getting rid of some habits, mapping out a career change, etc.
  • learn and practice new skills
  • deal with emotional issues, such as depression, anxiety, anger, mood swings, etc. that may be negatively impacting your life
  • improve your ability to deal with stress or cope with change

…the list goes on and on!

first therapy session

Therapy is a safe space for you to explore and discover, understand and accept, learn and practice. There is nothing to fear, and many benefits to gain. But therapy also takes courage, effort, and financial investment, so it’s natural to be wondering if it’s worth it.

So, first things first, before making a call, you may be asking yourself – do I really need therapy?

Signs you may need therapy

❓ Is my problem big enough to ask a therapist for help?
❓ Is what I’m experiencing normal?
❓ Do other people seek therapy because of this?
❓ Would it be stupid to go to therapy for this issue?
❓ Should I be able to solve this on my own?

If similar questions crossed your mind before deciding to start therapy, you are not alone.

To save you some time, here is a short answer: There are a lot of reasons to start therapy, and all of them are equally valid.

There are really no hard rules or bad reasons for going to therapy. Whether you are facing some challenges you don’t know how to overcome or just need somebody to talk to – neither of those reasons is wrong.

Yes, it is true that people often seek therapy when they’re in a crisis or during stressful life events. But it is also true that many people seek therapy wanting to know themselves better and improve certain aspects of their lives, without being in a middle of a crisis. It’s okay to start therapy just because you feel like you would use a little extra help, even if you’re not sure why. That being said, there are some signs that, right now, it might be an especially good time to seek out therapy.

🔸  You feel stuck
🔸  You are highly stressed
🔸  You feel like your emotions are a mess and you have a hard time controlling them
🔸  You feel empty, unmotivated, and struggle to start or finish tasks
🔸  You lost interest in things that you previously found exciting or pleasurable
🔸  You can’t shake a bad feeling
🔸  You turn to dangerous coping mechanisms, like drugs or alcohol
🔸  You became “snappy”, lose your temper quickly, everything irritates you
🔸  You’d like help working through difficult family or relationship dynamics
🔸  You experienced something you feel you can’t process alone
🔸  You want to talk about something without being judged or bombarded with advice
🔸  You need a safe space
🔸  You are struggling with making a decision
🔸  Your issues are interfering with your daily life
🔸  You want to know yourself better

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it can give you a general idea about what kinds of reasons people have for going to therapy. Essentially, if you want to start therapy or think you could find value in this process, that is reason enough. Just remember – there is no wrong time to ask for help.

what happens in therapy

How to prepare for your first psychotherapy session?

Okay, so you’ve made a decision and scheduled your first counselling appointment. Now what?

It may be a good idea to define why you are starting therapy, and why now. Additionally, think about what you’d like to achieve with therapy, what is the desired state. This can help you and your therapist better define your goals and give you direction in your session. Still, if you don’t have answers to these questions, that’s okay. You and your therapist can discuss the problem together and explore what would be the best path to take.

It’s completely okay to feel nervous before your first psychotherapy appointment; many people experience this. Part of this uneasiness comes from novelty, and it’s a completely normal response to facing something new. Another part of it may be coming from expecting to talk about sensitive stuff, things you usually don’t discuss in your everyday life, and you may be worried that this is going to bring some strong emotions to the surface. It’s important to know that, although this is a possibility, you don’t have to discuss anything you don’t want or don’t feel ready to talk about. Additionally, a good therapist will know how to create a safe space for you to, eventually, want to open up and share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

What to expect on your first therapy appointment?

If you are going to see your therapist in person, make sure to come a few minutes early. If you are having an online counselling appointment, make sure you have access to a private space without interruptions. Prior to, or during your first session, you will fill out some paperwork that usually includes your personal information, medical history, insurance information, etc. You will also be asked to sign an informed consent.

The initial first few minutes of your session might look different with different therapists, but you will most likely spend them getting to know each other. Therapists are aware that most people can be nervous about their first therapy session, so many of them will start with some small talk and easy topics to get you to relax and be more comfortable. Then comes the main part. Your therapist will need to know why you are seeking therapy, some of your history, and your therapy goals.

what to expect in therapy
Some of the questions your therapist may ask during your first session:

  • Do you have previous experience with psychotherapy?
  • Does someone in your family have any mental health issues?
  • Are you using any medication currently?
  • What brought you to therapy?
  • How long have you been experiencing these problems?
  • What do you hope to get from therapy?

When answering your therapist’s questions, it’s important to be open and honest. Your therapist is not there to judge you but to support and help you. However, as previously mentioned, you are not obliged to disclose anything that makes you uncomfortable. Although everything you say in therapy is confidential (unless it poses a threat to you or others), it’s understandable that you don’t feel comfortable sharing your deepest vulnerabilities with a stranger. As your relationship with your therapist develops over time, a sense of trust will grow. But if your therapist is pushing you to answer or discuss something that you communicated you don’t feel comfortable with, it might be a red flag.

Finally, be free to ask questions as well. You may want to know, for example, about billing, insurance, their expertise or experience, or about your particular issue. This process is about YOUR personal growth, and you want to walk away feeling that you’re moving in a positive direction.

How to get the most out of therapy?

Finishing your first counselling session is a huge step. Good job! It is also the first step in many. It is normal if you feel especially tired or low following your first counselling session. You’ve started important work – unpacking and understanding your thoughts and feelings. This can be demanding. Give yourself some space and time to process. It is also common to feel more grounded, lighter, even ecstatic after your first (or following) therapy session(s). Having someone to hear your struggles without judgment and help you understand them can be powerful.

Therapy is a process that requires commitment, patience, and conscious effort. Don’t expect your problems to go away after one or two sessions – it is extremely rare. How many sessions you will need depends on many factors, from the nature of your problem to the coping skills you already have, your personality traits, support system, your relationship with your therapist, etc. Still, there are some important things you can do to speed up the process and get the most out of your counselling sessions. Here are 5 tips on how you can maximize your therapy journey.

how to prepare for counselling session
1. Find the right fit

Research shows that the quality of the therapeutic relationship is the #1 factor that influences how successful therapy will be. Thus, it is crucial to find a therapist that is the right fit for you. This means that you feel safe, understood, and validated with them, that their approach feels comfortable to you personally, and that you leave your sessions with a sense that you are making progress.

2. Work between sessions

You can gain great insight in therapy, learn useful coping skills, and know what is healthy for you, but if you don’t actually put it into practice in real life, there is little chance positive change will occur. Therapy is not a place where you will go to be “fixed” or told what to do exactly. Instead, your therapist will guide you and provide the tools, but you are the one who needs to put in hard work for it to be effective.

3. Be completely honest

It can be difficult to share your deepest secrets and emotions with someone. Even facing some of these inner contents yourself, alone, can be challenging. Still, the more honest you are with your therapist, the better. Your therapist works with what you give to them – omitting certain details or refraining from disclosing certain feelings or experiences can slow down your therapeutic growth.

4. Don’t be afraid to tell your therapist what is not working well

Your therapist works in your best interest, and they are trained to listen well and without judgment. Sharing your feedback about the process or doubts about the direction you are headed in therapy is precious for any good therapist, and it can also fasten your progress.

5. Be patient

Sometimes positive change comes quickly, and sometimes, it is slow and gradual. Give it time and patience, and notice small wins along the way. Still, if you feel like you are not getting much out of your sessions, it is completely okay to voice your concerns to your therapist.

is therapy worth it

Some other basics about psychotherapy

🔸  A typical individual therapy session lasts 50 to 60 minutes

🔸  Online therapy has been proven to be as effective as in-person therapy. Online counselling and online psychotherapy can be especially useful for people who live in an area where the choice of mental health professionals is limited. It can also save you commuting time.

🔸  Not every therapist will be the right one for you. It’s a bit like dating – sometimes it’s a match, and sometimes it is not. Give it a few sessions to figure out whether you and your therapist are the right fit

🔸  What you say in your session is strictly confidential, with some exceptions that your therapist will communicate with you in advance

🔸  A therapist does much more than just listen. He/she will use many different techniques to help you explore the issue and reach your goals

A therapy session is a time designated for you only, and you can use it however you want.

It is a space for you to be yourself, share your concerns, and be totally honest without worrying about hurting anyone’s feelings or embarrassing yourself. A good therapist will help you work through and feel safe, heard, and understood.

Therapy is a smart investment – in both present and the future. Does everybody need it? No. But it’s a valuable tool that can help anyone achieve their goals, solve problems, and improve their life.

Do you have any questions about psychotherapy? Write us in the comment section below!

 

Sources:

Barak, A., Hen, L., Boniel-Nissim, M., & Shapira, N. A. (2008). A comprehensive review and a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of internet-based psychotherapeutic interventions. Journal of Technology in Human services26(2-4), 109-160. Online access HERE

Munder, T., Flückiger, C., Leichsenring, F., Abbass, A. A., Hilsenroth, M. J., Luyten, P., … & Wampold, B. E. (2019). Is psychotherapy effective? A re-analysis of treatments for depression. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences28(3), 268-274. Online access HERE

Vandergiendt, C. (2020). Why Therapy? The Most Common Reasons to See a Therapist. Healthline. Retrieved online on May 28th HERE

positive psychology for a good life

How to Live a Good Life: Lessons from Positive Psychology

Do you know what ‘positive psychology’ means?

Positive psychology as a term can be a little misleading. It might sound like encouraging you to “just be positive” and “cheer up”. However, this is not what positive psychology is about, and it should not, by all means, be confused with pop-culture self-help books and motivational speakers. Whilst the latter can be useful in other situations, they suit a different purpose.

For a long time, psychology as a field focused on negative aspects of human life, on people’s shortcomings and pathology. The main question was: “What is wrong?” However, about two decades ago, Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, proposed a new approach that asks: “What is right?”.

The Science of Happiness

Positive psychology is a science of positive aspects of human life. Its goal is to, using scientific methods, find and promote factors that increase our wellbeing. Hence, it puts a spotlight on topics such as happiness, creativity, meaning, wisdom, personal strengths, core values, resilience. Nevertheless, this does not mean that positive psychology neglects to repair what is ‘wrong’; it just emphasizes that building strength is equally important. It is intended to fulfill, not to replace traditional psychology.

Positive psychology proposes three kinds of a happy life:

  • Pleasant Life (“Life of enjoyment”) – Focused on experiencing positive emotions. This is how happiness is most often viewed in everyday life and popular culture.
  • Good Life (“Life of engagement”) – Focused on personal strengths, immersion in activities that have a purpose for us, and accomplishing goals. We derive happiness from being optimally engaged and from “getting lost” in activities we love. This state of being absorbed in the activity we enjoy and are skilled at is referred to as a state of “flow”.
  • Meaningful Life (“Life of affiliation”) – Aimed toward a higher purpose, how we derive a sense of meaning and belonging when we are contributing to a greater cause.

Positive psychology is a wide area encompassing a variety of different techniques that aim to encourage people to identify and further develop their positive traits, experiences, and emotions. It teaches us how to function optimally from the place of authenticity and inner fulfillment.

happy life growth

According to research, there are 5 pillars that contribute to positive well-being, the model known as PERMA:

1. Positive emotion

We all like to feel good, to experience joy, gratitude, optimism, etc. Positive psychology believes that positive emotions are more than just smiling; they reflect the ability to remain hopeful, optimistic, and creative in the face of setbacks and challenges.

2. Engagement

Our sense of well-being increases when we pursue activities that stretch our skills and in which we “lose ourselves” so that time seems to fly by. This kind of intense immersion in the activity is, as mentioned before, known as “flow”. It can be anything, from playing an instrument or a sport to solving an intellectual task or engaging in a hobby we love.

3. Relationships

We are social creatures, and connections with other people play an incredible role in our positive well-being. We derive a sense of meaning and happiness from healthy relationships, from feeling safe, loved, and nurtured, and providing those feelings for other people.

4. Meaning

A great sense of fulfillment comes from the feeling that our personal and professional endeavours have a purpose, that they contribute to a greater cause. Knowing why we do what we do leads to the feeling that our lives matter, which is a big source of life satisfaction.

5. Accomplishment

Having realistic goals and ambitions and working toward them is a significant part of positive well-being. Accomplishing a goal that required utilizing our skills and investing notable effort boosts our motivation and gives us a sense of pride and moving forward.

Positive psychology teaches us how to flourish and thrive. Its empirical findings are proof that normal life doesn’t have to be extraordinary to be good.

How do YOU show up in those five areas of your life? What does a good life mean to you? We would love to hear from you in the comment section below. Also, if you find this article interesting, please be free to share it on your social media.

Sources:

Ackerman, C. (2018). What Is Positive Psychology & Why Is It Important? Positive Psychology. Online HERE

PERMA Theory of Wellbeing and PERMA Workshops. Positive Psychology Center, Penn Arts & Sciences, University of Pensilvania. Online HERE

motivation for keeping new years resolutions

How to Get And Stay Motivated This Year

January is the month of new beginnings, new decisions, new choices. For many, the month of January, looking from the distance of December, feels like it’s going to be a fresh start, a blank page that will be filled with great choices we missed to make in the previous year. This time is going to be different. Right? But, with the year 2020 unfolding, it’s not uncommon that people struggle to keep up with their New Year’s resolutions. Somewhere along the way, they realize that sticking to their decisions is too difficult, or that those goals are not that important, or that “they just don’t feel like it”. What happens?

That strong urge for change that pushed us to make New Year’s resolutions – called motivation – faded away. This is not surprising – keeping high levels of motivation, in the long run, is tricky. Knowing a little bit more about how motivation works might help you achieve and keep your resolutions.

A Closer Look Into the Nature of Motivation

There are different definitions of motivation out there, but the majority basically boils down to this:

Motivation is a desire to act in pursuit of your goals. It pushes you to act, to behave in a certain way to get what you want or need.

You certainly felt this drive before, this urge to move and take action. It felt awesome, it pushed you toward reaching your goals, you felt energized and willing to engage – yes, in short, you felt motivated. But motivation is not easy to maintain. That initial spark fades away after some time and is, typically, not enough. That’s because motivation consists of three components:

  • Activation – the initial decision to make things happen
  • Persistence – the continued effort toward a goal despite the obstacles
  • Intensity – how hard you work for your goal

motivation

Further, there are basically two types of motivation:

Extrinsic motivation comes from an external source – to get a reward or to avoid punishment.

Intrinsic motivation comes from the inside, from within us – we do something because we enjoy it.

Both types of motivation are important. However, it turns out that intrinsic motivation is more powerful.

What does this mean for you? Only knowing that something is good for you is not enough to push you to make a change; a considerable reward has to be in play. This can be something external, like social recognition, money, or approval for example, or internal, like a sense of purpose or the feeling of deep fulfilment that comes from acting in accordance with your core values. Ideally, both should be present, but even one can be enough to push you forward through all three above mentioned components of motivation.

Staying Motivated Throughout the Year – Action Plan

In terms of New Year’s resolutions, if you want them to stick, the first crucial step is to turn them from a wish/decision to a goal. But it’s not just any goal; to keep you motivated, your goal needs to be a certain way to enhance the energy you need to get to the destination:

  • Optimally challenging – meaning you need to put the effort in, but it’s realistic and not too hard,
  • Specific – meaning your energy is directed toward a particular outcome,
  • Congruent with self – meaning your goal is in line with your values.

Once you have that set, you’ve established a strong foundation for working up toward the goal. Even if you slip up, it will be easier to bounce back from there.stay motivated this year

Additionally, here are 4 additional hacks that can help you get and stay motivated throughout the year:

1. Find your why

Nothing drives us like a strong feeling of purpose. The question WHY we do something is crucial, and if the answer is in line with our personal values, it is a huge push forward. To find out what your personal core values are requires tapping into your deepest self and asking: “What kind of life do I want to live?“. If you can connect your work and goals to your core values, it becomes a powerful source of motivation.

2. Focus on who you want to become

People interpret situations and difficulties in accordance with how they perceive themselves, and choose actions that feel congruent with their identity. For example, if someone believes that they’re a “loser”, sometimes they will choose actions that will reinforce this belief, and not choose actions that are incongruent with this picture of themselves because “it’s not for people like me”.

Thus, for increasing motivation, it can be more effective to focus on the identity – who you want to become – than on the ability – what you want to achieve. If you want to, for example, start going to the gym more often, the reason: “Because I’m (becoming) an athlete/healthy/good looking person” might be more motivating than: “Because I need to exercise more/have a healthier lifestyle”.

3. Set small milestones

Sometimes, setting a goal can feel intimidating because it looks too big to achieve. A crucial thing to not crush your motivation down is to divide large tasks into small, manageable parts, and do one at a time. Your brain will get a hit of dopamine every time you tick one small task off of a list, which will keep you motivated.

4. “CHOOSE” instead of “MUST”

A slight shift in the language can make big changes in the mindset. Sometimes the things we’re not motivated to do and see as a chore are, if we stop and think about it, the things that we are grateful for. “I have to go to work” and “I get to go to work” sound very different, don’t they?

And don’t forget – motivation is not a one-time thing. It has to be reinforced day after day. As Zig Ziglar wisely said: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

How do you keep yourself motivated? Share it with us in the comments. Additionally, if you like this post, please be free to share it with your friends and family.

Happy new beginnings!

Sources:

Armstrong, M., & Taylor, S. (2020). Armstrong’s handbook of human resource management practice. Kogan Page Publishers.

Hockenbury, D. H., & Hockenbury, S. E. (2010). Discovering psychology. Macmillan.

grief and comfort talking about feelings

Talking About Your Feelings While Grieving – What’s the Point?

Grief is one of the most painful states of all. And although it is a natural response to experiencing loss, it can really knock you off of your feet. Grief comes with all kinds of different emotions, difficult and unexpected ones, from deep sadness to disbelief, anger, guilt, confusion, loneliness, helplessness, and apathy. The pain of grief can also interfere with your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, get out of bed, or even think straight. Some people report an initial feeling of ‘numbness’ before the pain arises. All in all, there is really no order or a normal way of experiencing grief.

Coping with the loss of the loved one is one of life’s biggest challenges.

Going through the grief process is hard, and doing it alone and quietly makes it even harder. You probably heard that talking about your feelings, especially when you’re facing difficult experiences in your life, is important and good for you. And it’s true – letting yourself feel and express your emotions helps you process and validate them. This is especially true for the grieving process. However, it’s also true that grief makes facing emotions seem like a terrifying thing to do.

Talking About Your Grief Is Healing and Scary at the Same Time

Many people are afraid to let themselves feel the sadness and pain, let alone talk about it, because they’re afraid that, once they get started, they won’t be able to stop. They fear they won’t be strong enough to handle the pain, that they will fall apart and never put themselves back together again. But the truth is, when we let the words and tears flow, we’re letting the pain out. It’s uncomfortable at first, but in the end it frees up some space in our mind and heart for asking questions, seeking meaning, and finding some form of acceptance.

grief talking about sadness after a lossGrief feels like endless loneliness and incomprehension. These two are the main reasons why grief feels so overwhelming. Feeling disconnected from the world and questioning the meaning of the event is completely normal after experiencing significant loss. What talking about it does is that it tackles down these two main problems by doing two things:

  • It connects you with another human who is ready to listen and sit with you through your pain

Knowing that someone deeply listens and truly hears you is soothing. Disconnection and loneliness take a lot of space after a loss. Sharing your pain with someone willing to understand and accept it opens some of this space for letting connection and comfort in. It won’t take the loneliness away, but it can reduce it significantly. Sometimes, if you speak to a friend, it can be hard for them to truly know what to say. They don’t want to upset you further, but even just offering you a shoulder to cry on, or asking if you want anything from the shop can make a huge difference.

  • It helps you untangle your thoughts and understand the situation, even for a tiny bit

Making sense of the loss may be one of the most difficult things to do, but it’s also essential for healing. The process of grief is a foggy experience full of hard questions. What does this loss mean in terms of who you are and where you’re going? What does it mean for your understanding of life?

Moving forward in the process of grief is, essentially, about exploring what the loss means for your present and future self. It’s about rebuilding a meaningful life after such a significant change. This is a difficult thing, because not only are these questions filled with difficult emotions that can seem too hard and scary to face, but there is also no definite answer. It’s different for everybody, and there is no ‘recipe’ or a shortcut to it.

Even if it doesn’t look like it at the moment, the pain will lessen. It won’t completely go away, it will come in waves, and sometimes you’ll feel like you’re drowning. But you will laugh again and love again and live a purposeful life again. In the meantime, give yourself a break. Give yourself a hug. Give yourself time – LOTS of it. And be kind to yourself. Seek out and accept help from someone who is willing to listen and provide support. A trusting friend, a family member, your significant other, a support group, a therapist – find what works for you, but don’t battle it alone.

If you know anyone who is experiencing grief, please be free to share this post with them, as well as on your social media.

Sources:

Lindemann, E. (1944). Symptomatology and management of acute grief. American journal of psychiatry, 101(2), 141-148. Online HERE

Bukman, M. J. (2017). The development of a new identity through the process of bereavement counselling: a qualitative study (Doctoral dissertation). Online HERE

learn to say no

Learn to Say NO: A Short Guide for People-Pleasers

Most of us want to be liked by other people. It feels great to know that others think good of us. However, when we believe that being liked depends on how much stuff we do for other people and how helpful we are, that’s when the problems arise. People-pleasers know this issue too well – the inability to say no.

Helping others can be really fulfilling, but if you do it at the expense of yourself, out of fear or anxiety, it becomes an unhealthy pattern of behaviour that can suck all your energy and negatively impact your relationships. You spend so much time on what you think you need to do that there is almost zero time left for what you actually want to do. In the end, you feel exhausted, stressed, overwhelmed, and even resentful.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. Learning how to say no and not feel awful after is absolutely possible. In fact, knowing how to set boundaries is one of the most important things in sustaining healthy relationships with others and yourself.

Why Saying NO Is So Difficult?

Early relationships can additionally influence “people-pleasing” patterns of behaviour in adulthood. In general, as children, we learn that saying no is inappropriate and rude. If you said no to your parents’, cousins’, or teachers’ requests, you’ve probably been told off for it. Over time, you associated saying yes to requests with getting approval and saying no with criticism.

You may have been raised to be a sweetheart who always took care of other children, especially if you were the oldest child in the family. An influence like this can lead to the formation of beliefs such as: “I am only lovable if I’m accommodating and helpful”. Or maybe you come from a family where emotional support was conditional and inconsistent. Thus, in the attempt to secure love from important adults, it’s possible you developed the underlying belief: “If I don’t do everything to make others happy, they might leave or stop caring for me”. Inability to say no can also stem from early experiences with highly-critical parents who severely punished their children, even for small mistakes. Such experiences can lead to beliefs such as: “If I don’t do everything right, I will disappoint others or be punished”.

how to say noWhatever the case is, your self-worth may have come to depend on things you do for others. This is a tricky thing because it forms a vicious circle with no satisfying solution. On the one hand, being unable to say NO can make you stressed, exhausted, and resentful toward others. On the other hand, saying NO might be a threat for your self-image and result in you questioning your decision, feeling bad about yourself, or worrying others will get hurt, angry, or disappointed at you. Either way, with this kind of pattern, you can’t win.

But there is a way to actually win, and that is – change the pattern. Here are some steps you can take to help you say no effectively and create space for a more intentional yes.

Step 1: Get To Know Your Priorities

If you don’t know what you want, it’s a high chance you don’t know what you don’t want. Identify what is important to you, and acknowledge what is not. We all have limited energy and time; decide where you want to direct those, and where you definitely don’t. Before you say no, you have to be clear that you want to say no.

There are, of course, things that need to be done, even if we don’t like it, like finishing that important but boring report at work. But there are also things that you are not obliged to do, like spending another two hours at work helping your colleague finish their task while you really wanted to spend that time at the movies with your significant other.

You can’t be all things to all people. Choose what and who the priority is, and invest your limited time and energy there. The rest gets your resources only in case you really decide it’s worth it.

Step 2: Know What Saying NO Is And Is Not

  • Saying NO means you’re rejecting a request, not the person. Make clear to yourself (and to the other person) that you’re not rejecting them as a whole person; you’re just turning down their invitation. People will usually understand that it is your right to say no, just as it is their right to ask for the favor, and that your no doesn’t mean “I don’t like you” but simply: “Sorry, my plate is full/my priorities are elsewhere”.
  • Saying NO doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Just because you say no to sacrificing your time and comfort to accommodate others doesn’t mean you’re unlikable, rude, or selfish. It means you’re thinking long term and saying no is a preventative act against self-loathing and resentment in the future.how to say no
  • Saying NO is not a missed opportunity but a trade-off. Some people hate to say no because they feel like they’re missing out the opportunity. However, saying yes to something unimportant often means saying no to something important. So, instead of looking at NO as a missed opportunity, you can see it as a trade-off. You’re choosing the opportunity to do something you value more than the request. It seems like a fair deal.
  • Your NO might be much less threatening than it seems to you. Research from Columbia University found that, very often, people whom others see as appropriately assertive mistakenly thought others judged them as being over-assertive. This effect is called the line crossing illusion.  So, if you feel you might be confrontational, there is a high chance the other party doesn’t see you that way.
  • Saying NO is a form of self-care and self-respect. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first if you want to have the energy to help others.

Step 3: Learn To Tolerate The Reactions Of Others

The reality is, with some people, setting boundaries will unleash some unpleasant emotions and reactions. There is a possibility they get angry or disappointed, especially if they’re used to you being always available and accommodating. Some might even try to cross your boundaries and continue to push to change your NO into YES. However, when you know this, you can be prepared to work to firmly maintain the boundaries that you have set.

Remember that you’re an individual to yourself and that everyone is responsible for their own reactions. Sometimes, deep down, negative response and unpleasant emotions of others are simply not about you. But even if they are, don’t overgeneralize and jump to conclusions too fast. If someone is disappointed or angry, it doesn’t automatically mean they will ditch you out of their life or think you’re an awful person. It means they are disappointed or angry in that particular situation.

If someone keeps crossing your boundaries even when you communicate them clearly and gets upset because you’re not ready to sacrifice your happiness for their comfort, it may be a good idea to ask yourself is it the kind of relationship you want to nurture in the long run. In the end, you want to surround yourself with people who respect you for who you are, not only for what you do for them.

Step 4: Learn Some Practical Skills For Saying NO

Here are some tangible tips for practicing saying a polite but effective no.

✔️ Express your appreciation. More often than not, when people make a request, it’s because they trust your capabilities or they like your presence. Thus, even though you’ll refuse the invitation/request, thank them for approaching you.

✔️ Be kind but firm. Being polite doesn’t need to lead to a YES. Simply expressing your NO with a kind tone can help the other person (and you) feel better about the situation. However, some people don’t give up easily and will test your persistence. In this case, it’s important to know that nobody can “make” you change your answer with their repeated requests; the decision is completely yours. It’s your job to set boundaries. You can be as decisive as they are pushy. This is a good opportunity to practice your assertiveness.

✔️ Give some reason if you want but don’t over-apologize. Some people find it easier to say no if they give a reason for it, and that is okay. If you feel more comfortable saying: “I’m sorry, I have something else in my schedule already” instead of: “Sorry, I can’t”, that is completely fine. Just don’t lie about it and don’t make up excuses, because that will make you feel even guiltier and possibly complicate your life further. It’s important to know that you don’t need the good excuse to say no – having your priorities elsewhere is enough. Remember, you’re not asking for anyone’s permission to say no – you already have the right to it.

✔️ You can take time to think about it. Sometimes we just babble out YES and commit to something we don’t want to because we feel pressured to give the answer right away. It’s okay to take some time to think about it. That way, we give ourselves the opportunity to answer from the logical and realistic point of view instead out of anxiety and desire to please. If you’re really not sure about the request, tell the other person you’ll get back to them when you think about it. Just make sure you actually do it in a timely manner.

 

Saying no is a new thing for many of us, and therefore takes practice and courage. But with time, it becomes easier and brings amazing benefits. You are unique, important, and valuable even when you say no to being everything to everyone and take time for yourself. Don’t be afraid to practice it.

 

What are your experiences with saying no? Share it with us in the comments below! And also, share this post on social media; some people-pleasers you know might be thankful.

 

Sources:

Smith, M. J. (1975). When I say no, I feel guilty: how to cope–using the skills of systematic assertive therapy. Bantam.

Pagoto, S. (2012). Are You a People Pleaser? Psychology Today. Online HERE.

attracting same bad situations

Why You Keep “Attracting” the Same Situations Over And Over Again

Do you feel like the same situations keep happening to you over and over again? Do you keep attracting partners that don’t fulfill your needs or you face the same problems in different relationships? Are you struggling with the same stresses and conflicts at work, or you keep losing your jobs? It’s like you’re a magnet for people who hurt you, or embarrassing situations, or bullies at work, etc.

I am sure that, at least once in your life, you have said or thought something like: “Why this keeps happening to me all the time?”. And really, why? Is it some kind of a mystic cosmic power that brings these experiences to your life? Fortunately, psychology has a more realistic explanation to why you keep entering the same unpleasant situations all over again. Let’s explore what actually happens.

Frameworks You Live By

From the moment you are born, you are in a survival mode. During your childhood, your little mind is programmed to absorb everything that is happening around you in order to learn and adapt to your environment. You pull in the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, ideals of those around you. By interacting with your parents or primary caregivers, you form certain beliefs about yourself, other people, and life in general. These beliefs are the product of the way you interpreted behaviours of your important adults and how they treated your needs, as well as things they were telling you about other people, rules, and life in general.

Of course, not all parents are the same. Thus, some will be convinced that life is a fight, you are not allowed to make mistakes and need to be perfect in order to succeed or be loved and appreciated. For others, life will be a scary and dangerous place full of people waiting to hurt you, so you need to be careful who you trust and never let your guard down. Some will, on the other hand, believe that life is easy and fun, that people usually have good intentions and that, whatever you do, everything will be okay in the end.

These belief systems become the frameworks we live by. They are like colored glasses that affect how we see everything unfolding in our lives. More importantly, these beliefs direct our decision making, condition our behaviour and, ultimately, affect how others react to our behaviours and how they treat us.

A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Now, imagine a situation that you’re going to a party where you don’t know almost anyone.

Version 1: You’re afraid nobody will talk to you because believe you’re boring or not good with new people. Consequentially, you will probably feel self-conscious and anxious, and enter the party acting awkward, standoffish and not so friendly. As a result, people will not be encouraged to come to you and start a conversation, which will only, in turn, reinforce beliefs you already had.

Version 2: You strongly believe that you’re an interesting person and others will be open to meet you. You think: “This party is going to be great”. People will probably be drawn by your openness and outgoing attitude and come talk to you, which also proves you were right in your beliefs in the first place.

This effect is called a self-fulfilling prophecy, a term coined by famous sociologist, Robert Merton.

Merton noticed that sometimes a belief brings about consequences that cause reality to match the belief. He defined self-fulfilling prophecy as “a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true” (Merton, 1968).

self-fulfilling prophecy
Source: psychologytoday.com

In other words, a self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief or expectation that we hold about a future event that manifests because we hold it. Our expectations and predictions of what will happen impact our behaviour, which shapes how others see us and how they act toward us. In turn, they provide feedback we set ourselves to get in the first place, which serves to reinforce the original belief. Generally, this process is unintentional – we are not aware that our beliefs cause the consequences we expect or fear. And that’s exactly why it’s so difficult to tackle them down and start changing them.

Breaking the Cycle Can Be Hard…

Breaking the cycle of entering the same situations over and over again can be tricky, in the first place because we don’t see our fundamental beliefs as beliefs but as actual facts about the world. Subconsciously, it’s important for us to prove that our beliefs about how life works are “right” because it gives us a sense of security. If we “know” the rules by which the world functions, we feel like we can prepare and know what to expect. That’s why we filter information so they can fit our belief system. We rate experiences that are in line with our beliefs as an important “proof” that our frameworks are actually true, while we label those opposite to our frameworks as unimportant coincidences that won’t impact the way we see the world.

Over time, these patterns of thought and behaviour become our automatic response, a sort of a habitual reaction to circumstances. Researchers believe we have neural pathways in our brains that are reinforced by habit. The more you repeat the behaviour, the stronger your neural pathway for that behaviour becomes, and the easier it triggers the next time.

It’s like a forest dirt road – the more you walk on it, the more well-established it becomes. You have an automatic impulse to walk down that well-worn path, rather than on the grassy part. However, this dirt road often leads to the same destination. To break the cycle, you need to consciously resist the urge to stay on the road you know and start walking on the grass to a different direction. Over time, as you repeat taking the same route on the grass, another path will form and it will be easier to walk on.

…But You Can Do It!

One thing you can do to make the first step toward exiting the circle of “attracting” the same problems is to, for starters, let go of certainty. It’s important to understand that much of what you think you know about yourself, other people, and life, is more probably a belief and less probably a fact. It is a product of your upbringing and your past experiences. But the good news is that we can choose our beliefs and, therefore, change them.

You can start off by choosing a pattern that you want to break out of. Then, write down the past five times when it happened. List all the details about those situations – how did it happened, what led to it, why you think it happened. Now, try to find commonalities across these situations. In the end, try to find what part you play in these situations? Are there any behaviours that might have led you to the common outcome?

Here is a list of questions that might be helpful in discovering a pattern and your part in it:

  1. What keeps happening over and over again?
  2. How does it start?
  3. What happens next?
  4. And then what happens?
  5. How does it end?
  6. How do you feel after it ends? (John James, 1973)

 

This process is crucial for changing your patterns. It gives the opportunity to tackle down the reason you might have taken up a particular role and contributed to the outcome that keeps happening. From there, you can set up a goal – what you want to change and what results to get – and then map out a different path from the one you’re taking now.

It’s absolutely okay if you’re not able to identify the reason behind the same situations repeating in your life by yourself. A good therapist can help you figure out where you’re standing and how to proceed.

 

Please share your thoughts and experiences on the topic down below in the comments, it’s always amazing to hear it! Also, don’t forget to share this post on your social media.

 

Sources:

https://yaqeeninstitute.org/najwa-awad/why-do-bad-things-always-happen-to-me-breaking-the-cycles-of-negativity/#.XQZQfYgzbIU

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psychology-writers/201210/using-self-fulfilling-prophecies-your-advantage

https://positivepsychology.com/self-fulfilling-prophecy/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3860473/

vancouver counselling real life counselling

It’s Your Choice – My #1 Tip for Changing Perspective

Yesterday marked my first day exploring downtown Vancouver. I decided that with the sun shining, I would take the opportunity and sit by the beach. So I found myself a rock and curled up with the view of the ocean and the mountains in the distance.

There was a man next to me, probably in his mid-20’s, relaxing and sunbathing. As I fell into a blissful feeling, enjoying the warmth on my face as I read my book, I noticed the guy beside me was swimming! As a note, although I’m in Vancouver now, it is still only the 7th of April.

Before I decided to leave, I decided I would initiate a few words with him. So, I asked:

Me: “How cold was the water?”

Him: “It was really cold. But, if you tell yourself it’s really cold you’ll never get in. I come down to the beach every day in the summer. I live close to here. I’ve been wanting to come swimming all week, but today was finally warm enough. Cold is relative.”

What impressed me the most was his choice of words. It was obvious to me that:

  •  if you want something bad enough you’ll do it
  •  if you keep a positive perspective you’ll face adversity
  •  your words affect your actions
  •  what is okay for me, may not be okay for you. But if it aligns with your values, goals, and desires, you’re being authentic.

Although there was a bit more to our conversation, this was the gist of it.

So here is your tip:

I think we can all take a piece of his perspective and try to use it more in our daily lives.

 

Have you caught yourself reframing your self-talk or your words? How has it helped you? What helped you change your perspective? Share it down below in the comments!

 

mississauga counselling

Life Choices

As we transition into Autumn here in Ontario, I find myself reflective about my own life choices as well as about some of the stories my clients have shared with me.

One of the beautiful things about life is that we have an abundance of choice around us. Have you walked down the aisle’s of your grocery store lately? What about exploring the department store? Let’s not even talk about the ways to express yourself through social media!

These choices are great; they provide us with options, allow us to feel empowered and abundant. However, sometimes perhaps these choices can lead to a “road block”, where we have TOO many choices and are left feeling stumped.

From what I’ve observed, making choices about certain transitions or changes in your life can sometimes feel overwhelming. Let’s face it, when we think about the big, “life-impacting” decisions we have around us, they are just that, “life-impacting”! So, how do you make these decisions with clear eyes and open hearts?

The important piece to this, in my opinion, is to make your decision based on your values, and what you want for YOU. It’s your life to live. So, without prevail, embrace what you really want, with logic, and with a smile.