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

how to deal with mixed emotions

Why Having Mixed Feelings Is Not a Bad Thing

Have you ever experienced contrasting emotions or ‘mixed feelings’ toward something or someone? Have you ever had a hard time making a decision because you had felt both positive and negative emotions toward the decision? Maybe you felt trapped, stuck, torn by two opposing forces?

If your answer is yes, what you have experienced is called ambivalence. It surely isn’t pleasant, but it’s an inevitable part of the human experience. It’s not uncommon for people to think things like:

“I have a great job opportunity, but I love my current job. It feels like, whatever I decide – to stay at my current job or to accept this new one – I’d regret it”.

“I love my husband, but I get attracted to other people. What is happening? Do I really love him?” 

“My children bring me so much joy, but they often make me crazy. I want to spend time with them, but I also want them to leave me alone.”

There is nothing weird about these kinds of thoughts. People are complex beings, and with that comes the complexity of their thinking and emotions. Although we would like to have a perfectly clear picture of what we want and how we feel at all times, because of this complexity, it is not always possible.

Ambivalence is a state of internal conflict, experiencing both positive and negative thoughts and feelings about the same person or issue at the same time.

how to deal with mixed feelings

We all experience mixed feelings from time to time; it’s an inseparable part of human life. But it’s also an uncomfortable state, the one we often don’t know what to do with. Our minds like to be certain – that’s what helps us feel safe – and ambivalence brings just the opposite of that. Having seemingly contradicting feelings toward something can make us anxious and torn between options.

So, how do you get rid of ambivalence quickly and effectively?

A short answer is: you don’t and you shouldn’t. Instead, you learn to deal with it.

Ambivalence Is Not a Problem – Intolerance for Ambivalence Is

We, humans, are complex beings who walk around trying to put each other into neat little boxes – good/bad, right/wrong, mean/kind, etc. We are prone to black and white kind of thinking, trying to categorize people and experiences. This is normal to a certain extent – we are trying to quickly make sense of what is happening around us and predict what to expect. Simplifying life like this can be useful – in today’s fast-paced, over-stimulating world, our ability to filter, reduce, and simplify can help us properly function. However, if we are not careful or aware of this kind of thinking, it can carry an emotional cost.

The problem arises when we don’t know how to deal with mixed feelings. We say to ourselves: “These two things can’t go together, so which one will I choose? Which of these realities is “truer”? Which one wins, and which one will I deny and minimize?”

torn between options

Extreme intolerance for ambivalence is called “splitting”. It refers to an inability to hold opposing thoughts, feelings, and views of other people and oneself. People who use “splitting” see the world in absolute terms, without any room for shades of gray. For them, depending on the situation, people are seen as “perfect” or “total failures”, something “always” or “never” goes right, etc. They seem to not be able to integrate the idea that, what we often consider as “good” or “bad” traits, can exist in the same object. This, as you can imagine, can cause problems in relationships. It makes keeping long-term, stable, healthy relationships almost impossible, and the ability to optimally regulate own emotions and moods incredibly difficult.

The problem, then, is not ambivalence itself, but our intolerance for ambivalence.

Having Mixed Feelings Is Completely Natural

What’s true is that we can hold multiple emotions and opinions at once, even the ones that look contradictory on the surface. They can exist together without canceling each other out. Emotions are states that come and go; they are not permanent. Having both positive and negative feelings towards a person and/or a situation is completely natural.

You can…

  • love your children dearly AND still feel overwhelmed or angry with them.
  • feel like you want to spend more time with your partner AND need some time alone.
  • love someone AND know it’s not healthy to keep them in your life.
  • compassionately understand what led someone to do the things they did AND still hold them accountable for their behaviour.
  • believe in yourself AND still be afraid of failure.
  • grieve AND still hold space for joy.

Being able to see and accept that people, circumstances, and situations, as a whole, contain both “good” and “bad”, is one of the defining features of mental health.

contradicting emotions

Embracing Ambivalence

Having tolerance for our mixed emotions is beneficial for several reasons.

First, when we accept that we can have multiple, seemingly opposite emotions at the same time, we don’t invest so much energy in suppressing some emotions or trying to explain which of these are true and which are not. Instead, we can re-focus this energy toward accepting our experience, understanding ourselves, and making better decisions about complex life issues.

Second, when we accept our experience instead of trying to repress or run away from it, we can have a deeper understanding of ourselves and make better decisions about complex life issues. A straightforwardly positive or negative attitude toward something has a clear message: approach or avoid. With mixed feelings, we have the opportunity to review our goals and values and reflect on our beliefs. One study showed that mixed emotions are a sign of emotional depth, not indecision. It shows the ability to see things from multiple perspectives, which is often a reflection of emotional intelligence.

Third, intolerance to ambivalence is a relationship killer. One of the key elements of mature, healthy relationships is accepting the other person as a whole. We don’t have to like all aspects of someone’s personality to love them; in fact, it’s quite impossible. Mature love means being able to see different traits of another, to acknowledge that we feel positive and negative emotions toward these traits, and still love, appreciate, and choose this person. If we are not able to integrate both “good” and “bad” traits of another person into a whole, we may have an idealistic picture of what relationships should look like. This can create unrealistically high expectations, lead to “on” and “off” relationship dynamics, and put both individuals through emotional and behavioural roller coasters.

when you have mixed feelings

One Simple Tip For Dealing With Mixed Feelings

One way to do start building tolerance for ambivalence is to acknowledge that two seemingly opposing thoughts or emotions can exist in our mind at the same time. They don’t have to cancel each other out – make some room for both of them and, like a curious scientist, try to observe them without judgment.

What you can also do, then, is make a simple shift in language – replace BUT with AND. When we use BUT, we are implying that the two things between which the word BUT stands cancel each other out. However, when we use AND, we make room for all emotions.

For example, consider the difference between these two sentences:

“I love my husband but he makes me so angry sometimes”

“I love my husband and he makes me so angry sometimes”

Notice how the first has a worried, unresolved connotation. The air around the second one is, on the other hand, altogether different. One doesn’t negate the other; you get angry at your partner sometimes which doesn’t mean you don’t love him dearly. With “and” language, the tension stemming from the “but” language starts to dissipate. There are no angsty questions lurking, there are no dilemmas to resolve or apologies or justifications to be made.

Additionally, being clear with yourself about your values, about who you are, what you find important, and what you want to cherish in life can also help you resolve the state of ambivalence, or at least guide your decisions when mixed feelings are present.

Embracing ambivalence can open a whole new spectrum in your interactions with others and in understanding and accepting your own experience. Fulfillment and disappointment, love and anger, pain and pleasure, there is room for all of them. Instead of instantly labeling, we can get curious instead – about ourselves and others. With this idea in mind, with openness for all emotions, we can explore and better understand what is happening, inside and outside of us.

The world is not an either/or place; our lives are full of shades of gray.

 

Sources:

Burton, N. (2012). Self-Deception II: Splitting. Psychology Today.

Schimmack, U. (2001). Pleasure, displeasure, and mixed feelings: Are semantic opposites mutually exclusive?. Cognition & Emotion15(1), 81-97.

Schneider, I. K., Novin, S., van Harreveld, F., & Genschow, O. (2021). Benefits of being ambivalent: The relationship between trait ambivalence and attribution biases. British Journal of Social Psychology60(2), 570-586.

Zimmerman, E. (2016). Is Ambivalence Healthy? Researchers Have Mixed Feelings. Stanford Business.

 

How to Repair a Relationship After a Fight

So, you and your partner just had a fight. Maybe it was around a small issue, maybe it was over something big, and maybe it was a perpetuating argument that has been repeating for months or years now. It blew up and a mixture of relationship poisons like harsh words, broken trust, shouting, contempt, criticism, silent treatment, resentment, hurt feelings, etc. left a bitter taste. But you want this partnership to continue. You want to repair your relationship, to restore connection between you and your partner, to get things back where they were or, more possibly, make them better. But at the same time, you don’t want to be hurt (again).

So, what do you do? How to heal a relationship after an argument?

According to Dr. John Gottman, most, if not all, couples argue, which is not a problem in itself. What determines the course of a relationship is how romantic partners see and handle those conflicts, how they relate to each other, and what they do after a fight to soothe and repair their relationship.

In other words, all relationships go through cycles of rupture and repair.

Ruptures in a relationship are inevitable…

When things are going well in a relationship, we feel respected, connected, and emotionally safe. We feel liked and appreciated, we are responsive to our partner’s emotions and needs, and feel like it is reciprocated. In short, we feel in tune with one another. Over time, this sense of mutual attunement contributes to building strong bonds and intimacy between people.

However, this harmonious state can be thrown off balance from time to time due to different factors, such as stress, insecurities, wrong assumptions, miscommunication, etc. We are not mind readers, no matter how finely tuned we are to each other’s moods and sensitivities. Mistakes and “misattunements” happen, and they can lead to ruptures in a relationship.

A rupture is a disruption of the emotional connection we have with a loved one. It can be small, like saying something insensitive unintentionally, or big and potentially non-negotiable, like a breach of trust. Typically, ruptures are colored with unpleasant feelings like hurt, anger, loneliness, sadness, disappointment, etc. No matter how much effort we put into a relationship, some ruptures will occur. What happens after the rupture is important. If left unaddressed and untreated, resentment can build and emotional intimacy weaken. However, if both partners engage in repairing, their relationship can not only heal but grow and thrive.

…Repairs are what matters

Repair attempts are any actions or statements that are aiming to prevent a conflict escalating out of control, or, in some way, aiming to extend the olive branch after an argument. According to Dr. Gottman, repair attempts are a “secret weapon” of happy couples, whether they are aware they are using them or not. They are an act of loving behaviour not only toward your partner but to the relationship itself. They communicate: “I care about you and about this relationship, so I am willing to be vulnerable and try to connect with you. I am not trying to win this fight, I am not against you. Instead, I want our relationship to win this fight. Please join me”.

All relationships are different, so repair attempts will vary from couple to couple. Some examples:

  • Offering an apology (“I am sorry about what I said earlier, I didn’t mean it”)
  • Statements that communicate you are still a team (“I love you”, “I know it’s not your fault”)
  • Sharing appreciation (“Thank you for sharing that with me”, “I admire that you…”)
  • Empathizing (“I understand”, “If I was in your shoes, I can imagine seeing things the same way”)
  • Cracking an inside joke
  • A small invitation to talk, like softly tapping a spot beside you, or offering them a drink or a snack
  • A gentle physical touch, like holding their hand or offering a hug

repair a relationship

It takes two to tango, and two to repair a relationship

Repair attempts take courage and insight, and need both partners in order to work. That’s right, both partners need to engage in repair for it to be successful, no matter who may seem to be more “wrong” or more “responsible for the damage”.

That said, Dr. Gottman and his colleagues tried to find the most effective kinds of repairs through a series of research. The problem was, they couldn’t find any consistency – sometimes the most beautifully crafted and honestly spoken apologies didn’t work, while other times, something that seems trivial, like a silly grimace, was very successful. They couldn’t quite figure it out until they started looking at the partner on the receiving end of a repair attempt. They found out that it’s not exactly the nature of the repair that makes it successful; it’s the willingness of the other partner to notice and receive those attempts.

Now, this willingness doesn’t stem merely from other partner’s mood or good will, but from a number of different factors, one of the most important ones being the “balance in their “emotional bank account” which, most simply put, refers to how much they have felt seen, heard, understood, and appreciated in the relationship, especially lately. But it’s not so simple of course – this balance depends, again, on both sides. It takes making deposits to the emotional bank (like responding to partner’s needs, showing interest in what’s going on with them, empathizing and being there for them, showing appreciation for who they are or what they do, doing small acts of kindness, etc.) and also recognizing these efforts. But that’s a topic for a whole another blog. Let’s get back to the practical stuff.

Usually, the responsibility for an argument lays on both partners, although it doesn’t always seem like that. However, sometimes one partner shares a larger portion of responsibility, and only after they may realize how much they have hurt their partner. If that’s the case, check out our article “How to apologize the right way after you hurt your partner“.

couples argue

6 steps to repair a relationship after a fight

Now that you know that ruptures happen even in the happiest relationships, and that mastering the art of making and receiving repair attempts is crucial for healing a relationship, let’s see what you can do to de-escalate the tension after a fight with your partner and get your relationship back on track.

1. Take a time-out and explore how you feel

Repairing a relationship after a fight takes many gentle moves. However, it can be really difficult to be gentle in the heat of the moment or right after, especially when you feel hurt or angry. If you feel flooded with intense uncomfortable emotions, trying to resolve a conflict right there can be counterproductive – extend or escalate it, or even trigger a new one. Instead, in the aftermath of a heated argument, it may be best to give each other some time and space to take a breather and decompress. You can both use this time to process what happened, feel your feelings, and explore what this argument meant for you. This will be very important later when you sit together to resolve the issue.

A useful thing you can do to collect your thoughts and get in touch with yourself during this time is to follow a 3-step process:

  • Do a brain dump. Like emptying the contents of a purse onto the table, spill the contents of your mind onto paper. All of it. Write down everything that you think and feel, without any particular order and without a filter. No matter if it doesn’t make sense, no matter if it sounds silly, just get it all out.
    This technique is particularly useful and relieving when you feel overwhelmed by uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. The act of taking the thoughts out of your mind and seeing them on paper helps diffuse the issue and calm your mind a little, because there are not so many different thoughts bouncing around.
  • Sit with your feelings. After you wrote down everything you think about (and you may feel drained but relieved at this point; it’s normal), make some room for your feelings. How do you feel? Where do you feel it in your body? Can you name those feelings? Remember, you can experience different feelings and they can exist at the same time. You can feel love and anger toward your partner, you may appreciate them and feel disappointed about what they did. It’s okay, it’s your space; let the feelings flow.
  • Think about what your partner can do to help you feel better. Ask yourself – what do I need? What it would take for me to feel different? What is my partner’s role for this to happen, and what is my role? Clearing this out can set you up for a more productive recovery conversation.


2.
Refocus from “Me vs. You” to “We vs. The Problem”

When people feel hurt, angry, betrayed, disregarded, or unrespected, they tend to either attack or put up a wall and dismiss whatever the other person is trying to communicate (or both). These are self-protective actions, and they’re understandable. However, in romantic relationships, they rarely lead to a productive solution. Self-protection might be the first impulse in the moment, but remember that your partner probably feels the same way, and it won’t take you where you want to be – connected and safe with each other again. So, what will take you there then?

One person needs to break this cycle and show courage to expose themselves to a certain extent, to be vulnerable, and re-focus from protecting themselves to protecting the relationship.

If you want to fix your relationship, you need to be on the same team. You are in a relationship not by force, but because you choose to be with each other. Your partner is not the enemy. You are not the enemy. You two, together, as a team, have a problem, that you may be able to fix together. But it takes someone to be vulnerable enough to take the first step.

Stepping back from a self-protection attitude and turning toward a relationship-protection frame of mind is not easy. In fact, it can be incredibly difficult, maybe some of the hardest work you can do as a couple. But it is the strongest tool you have for building your emotional bond and helping your relationship thrive.

what to do when you hurt your boyfriend


3.
Actively listen to your partner and validate their feelings

Feeling heard and understood is the need that lays in almost all conflicts. To fix the relationship after a fight, you can start a conversation by asking your partner to share their feelings and their point of view. For a moment, set aside your perspective, set aside judgment and prejudice, set aside the need to disagree and defend yourself, and just listen. Express interest in their needs, feelings, hopes, what hurt them, what they desire, what they lack. Try to put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perspective. Ideally, you want to come to the point where you understand how the way they see things and how they feel make sense. Even if this is difficult, try to find something you can agree with or that you understand, and acknowledge that.

You can validate their feelings by expressing understanding: “I understand now. I would probably feel the same way if I were in your spot” or by repeating or summarizing what they said: “It sounds like you felt hurt by what I said.”

Validating your partner’s feelings at this point doesn’t mean you agree with what they said during the argument or with their point of view. It doesn’t mean they are “right” or that they “won”. It just means you are willing to show them that you are there for them, that you are ready to listen and understand because you care about what’s important for them. When you start listening with a goal to understand, not to respond, it fulfills the need to feel heard and understood, and does wonders for rebuilding trust, safety, and connection.

Hard? Yes. Effective? Yes, yes, and yes.

what to do after you hurt your girlfriend


4.
Share your side without pointing fingers

It’s important to share how you felt during the argument and how you experienced it. While doing this, it’s crucial to make sure you avoid blame and criticism. You can be in a conflict without telling the other person: “You’re bad!”

Focus on using “I statements” and avoid pointing fingers with sentences that start with something like “You always…” and “You never…”. For example, statements like: “You never listen to me” and “You don’t care about me” are a big no. And no, a crafty construction like: “You made me feel unheard” is not an “I statement”.

“I statements” are in a form of: “I feel – When – (bonus: Because)”.

For example: “I feel frustrated when I am constantly interrupted in a conversation” or: “I feel overwhelmed and upset when you yell at me during a conflict.” You can also add why this is so important to you, for example: “I shut down and it’s difficult for me to continue the conversation. Also, I feel scared when it happens and I really don’t want to feel this way with you.”

What “I statements” ultimately do is create a more positive and less hostile atmosphere for communication because they frame a situation as something to be solved together, instead of sounding like a complaint about the other person or an attack on their character. This way, you decrease the possibility of your partner becoming defensive and increase the likelihood of them truly listening to you and adopting that “same team” mentality.

make up after an argument


5.
If you haven’t already, discover what the fight was really about

Fights about little things are often not about those little things at all. A fight over doing dishes may be, at its core, about unmet needs, failed expectations, respect, etc.

For example, imagine a scenario where Partner I didn’t do the dishes (again!) and Partner II complains about it, which blows up into an argument. What may be happening for Partner I is not that they just don’t like doing the dishes, but that they felt angry and unloved. They may be overwhelmed at work and worried about their mother who is sick, and they had a super stressful day. So, they perceive complains from Partner II as a sign that they don’t care about their feelings. On the other hand, for Partner II, not doing the dishes after many complaints and conversations was a sign of disrespect; they felt unappreciated and taken for granted because they put in the efforts to change little habits that are bothering Partner I and make little sacrifices to make their life together more comfortable, but don’t feel the efforts are recognized or reciprocated.

So, the fight was, obviously, not about the dishes. It was about the deeper needs of feeling loved, respected, and appreciated. When we don’t communicate openly, we can easily overlook what is really going on, which can lead to miscommunication, resentment, and cycles of unproductive arguments without a real solution. So, in our example, when Partner I and Partner II discover what the fight was really about and which needs, wants, or expectations were not met, they can discuss together what they can do in the future to change that and help the other person feel better.

marriage conflict


6.
Work together toward finding a practical solution

Now that the situation calmed down and you shared your perspectives and feelings, try to come up with a solution that will prevent a fight like this from happening in the future. Discuss what both of you can do to help each other feel better about the issue. Ideally, you want to be able to put this topic to rest and move on, with both of you intentionally taking steps to stick to the plan you agree on.

In our previous example, Partner I can, for instance, make sure they share their feelings more often and communicate with their partner when they feel stressed. At the same time, they can show appreciation by noticing little efforts Partner II is investing in their home by expressing it with words and with initiating completeying some housework tasks, when they can. On the other hand, Partner II can make sure to check in with Partner I more often and make room for some slipups without turning to criticism. They can also set boundaries, make sure they don’t give over their limits, and don’t sacrifice their time and energy without it being necessary because it can lead to resentment. Both partners can also come up with a more detailed plan about what they would do and how they can discuss better if this problem comes up again.

If the same issue happens over and over again without a resolution you can both agree on, it may be wise to see a couple’s therapist. The right professional can help you tremendously in understanding your and your partner’s thoughts and feelings, emotional triggers and needs, identify the reason you’re stuck, and help you learn skills to better communicate and solve problems.

fix a relationship

Disclaimer: All these tips refer to after verbal arguments. If your relationship is physically or emotionally abusive, try to find a support system and consider a safe escape plan. An experienced professional can help you get through it and guide you in creating a plan of the next steps.

An argument in an otherwise healthy relationship can actually bring you closer, if it’s handled the right way. If conflict resolution is done right, it can bring positive things, such as learning how to meet each other’s needs better, how to communicate more effectively, and how to adapt to one another so you can both thrive. Overall, it’s a process, but it can be a powerful one. Try it, and good luck!

If this article was helpful to you in any way, please be free to share it with your friends and family. Also, share some of your useful tips for fixing a relationship after an argument in the comments.

worry too much

5 Crucial Differences Between Worry And Anxiety

Heading to an intense job interview, facing an unexpected event that could change your life significantly, expecting important news… they are enough to kick anyone’s worry and anxiety up. It’s normal and expected. We worry about stuff we find important in our lives, such as finances, relationships, work, etc. Worry is a natural mechanism that can be helpful – motivate us to take action, come up with a strategy to improve our situation and solve the problem. However, as many of us know, it can get out of control and become unproductive, paralyzing, disruptive, and turn into full-blown anxiety. But where is the line? What is the difference between worry and anxiety? How much worry is too much?

People use these terms interchangeably, but being worried is not the same as being anxious. Although worry and anxiety are both associated with concern and discomfort, they manifest differently and their implications for our mental and physical health are very different.

Here are 5 things that can help you distinguish the two and answer the question: “Am I anxious or just worried?”

1. Worry is concrete and directs you toward problem-solving. Anxiety is vaguer and marked by rumination.

Worry is more specific than anxiety. When you are worried, you can pinpoint exactly what you are worried about. With anxiety, it’s not so easy – it’s more of a general feeling of uneasiness about a number of different scenarios. Thus, worry usually prompts us to act, to solve the problem, to use our coping skills, and build a strategy for dealing with a given situation. Anxiety, on the other hand, is paralyzing – it doesn’t direct us toward a concrete solution. Rather, we get caught in an endless spiral of “what ifs”, unable to come up with a solution.

2. Worry usually resides in your thoughts. Anxiety is all over the place – in your mind AND your body.

Worry and anxiety affect your body in different ways. Worry is usually limited to your thoughts that you can verbalize, such as: “I don’t know if I will be able to make it in time” or “Will I be able to pay rent this month?”. You may experience some unpleasant sensations in the body, such as tension and short-term emotional distress, but those are mild.

Anxiety, on the other hand, you feel both in your mind and your body, and pretty intensely so. The physical reactions can vary and can include tightness in the chest, pounding heart, sweating, rapid breathing, trembling, “knot” in the stomach, nausea, trouble sleeping or concentrating, etc. Together with worrying thoughts and an endless spiral of “what ifs”, it occupies our whole system, so it’s not surprising that when we are anxious, it can be really difficult to focus on something else.

stop overthinking

3. Worry leads to thoughts you can typically keep in perspective. Anxiety makes you jump to the ‘worst-case scenarios’.

There is a logical component in worry – your brain is trying to protect itself from real and present danger. Anxiety has a wild imagination and brings you into a panic mode for things that, if you stop and think about it logically, or ask someone else, are not very rational. When you are anxious, you overestimate the risk and believe that you will not be able to cope with the consequences.

Of course, it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether our concerns are rooted in reality or if they’re completely irrational, especially when we are stressed. What can help us distinguish between worry and anxiety in these situations is the degree of our ability to control our concerns. Usually, a good sign that normal worry turns into anxiety is an inability to put the break on and get it under control.

4. Worry is temporary. Anxiety is more longstanding.

Worry is usually short-term; once we solve the problem or a concerning situation passes, our worry disappears. With anxiety it is more complicated; since it is so vague and intense, it can linger for long periods of time. Also, it is rarely satisfied – when one thing is solved, you start getting anxious about something else.

5. Anxiety often interferes with your daily functioning. Worry usually doesn’t.

If the levels of distress and discomfort are so intense that it makes it hard for you to function (to eat, sleep, concentrate, think about something else, etc.), it is a pretty clear sign of anxiety. Worry is uncomfortable, of course, but it is not as intense and it has milder effects on our physical and mental state.

overcome worry and anxiety

Tips To Manage Worry And Anxiety

Experiencing worry and a certain level of anxiety is normal. However, when it comes to the point of disrupting your daily functioning – and even before that point – it’s time to react and take steps to decrease it and bring it back to manageable levels. Here are a few tools to try:

1. Schedule worry time

When your mind persistently goes back to the same worries, again and again, this technique can be very helpful. Simply, determine 15-20 minutes of your day that are dedicated to worrying only. This is your time to worry all you want. Outside this time slot, when anxious thoughts arise, tell yourself something like: “I see you, thoughts, but your time is scheduled at 8 PM tonight. I’ll meet you then.”.

Check out more about this technique in our blog post: One Powerful Technique to Ease Your Worrying Mind and Anxiety.

2. Pay attention and question your thoughts

Your anxious mind is not very rational, and will often lie to you and speak nonsense such as: “Everybody thinks you’re a failure”, “You can’t do this”, “You’ll never get this promotion”, etc. When you catch these thoughts playing in your head, stop and remind yourself that they are the product of your anxious brain. Then challenge them by asking yourself questions such as:

  • How helpful are these thoughts?
  • Are they really true?
  • What is the evidence against them?
  • What are some other ways I can think about this situation?
  • What would I tell to a friend who had the same thought?

Remember, your thoughts are just that – thoughts. They are not always a perfect reflection of reality.

difference between worry and anxiety

3. Stop jumping to an imagined future and connect with the present moment

There is an old quote from Lao Tzu, a famous Chinese philosopher, that says: “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” Although this quote oversimplifies both depression and anxiety (there are many different factors that contribute to them), there is some truth to it. An anxious mind is overly focused on what might happen in the future, spiraling down the hole of endless “what ifs” without an answer. This kind of thinking is unproductive and keeps us in the anxiety loop.

Taking a few minutes to practice mindfulness and focus on the present moment can help take your thoughts away from the past and the future, helping you re-center and think more realistically. If you’re interested to learn more about mindfulness and its benefits, our blog posts Return to Now: Living in the Present Moment and 6 Reasons Why Integrating Mindfulness Into Your Life Is Helpful might be a good place to start.
A few mindfulness techniques you can try:

    1. Mindful meditation
    2. 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, two things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
    3. Focus on your breathing – inhale for 5 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat until you feel calmer.
    4. Focus on your body and how it relates to the space around you. Feel the ground beneath your feet, how your clothes touch your skin, where you’re sitting or standing, etc. Then ask yourself: “What is wrong with this particular moment? Am I safe right now, this minute? Let’s go one minute at a time.”

4. What are your strengths?

We all face difficulties and hard times during our lifetimes; it’s inevitable. Sometimes our worries come true, and we need to cope with real adversities that come up. Fortunately, research shows that we are, usually, more resilient than we may think.

Resilience is the ability to move through adversaries and rise from them. It is a set of skills and psychological traits that allows us to cope with struggles and recover from them. There are some things we can do to build our resiliency and rise back from difficult experiences more quickly. Read more about it here: 3 Things You Can Do to Recover From Setbacks More Quickly.

In the end, it’s important to know when anxiety increases to clinical levels, so you can react promptly.

Anxiety disorders are characterized by severe, persistent worry that is excessive for the situation, and extreme avoidance of anxiety-provoking situations. These symptoms cause distress, impair daily functioning, and occur for a significant period.

If you are experiencing anxiety so often that it interferes with the quality of your life and impacts your physical and mental health, please do not hesitate to ask for help. There are proven and very effective ways to treat it and cope with it successfully, so you can be happier, more productive, more satisfied You.

How do you cope with worry? Share your tips with us in the comment section below.

Like this blog post? Please be free to share it on your social media – someone may find it helpful.

Sources:

https://child-familyservices.org/4-habits-that-will-train-your-brain-to-stop-worrying/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/do-i-have-anxiety-or-worry-whats-the-difference-2018072314303

self-criticism

How To Deal With Self-Criticism

I’m going to mess up.

I’m so stupid.


I’m a failure.


I did well that time, but anyone could have.


Does this kind of self-talk sound familiar?

In a world where we expect so much from ourselves, it’s easy to fall into a trap of not feeling good enough. The way we talk to ourselves when we fail to meet our or someone else’s expectations is important. In these situations, it makes a huge difference whether we provide some comfort, kindness, and encouragement to ourselves, or we turn to self-criticism. Unfortunately, too often, we choose the latter.

Where Does All This Self-Criticism Come From?

Self-criticism is an inner voice that takes a derogative stance when we don’t meet our expectations. It includes negative judgments of your abilities, physical appearance, intelligence, behaviour, even thoughts and feelings.

Rigidly demanding parents, teachers, culture or religion, unhealthy relationships, or friendships that undermined our confidence can all be the root of our self-criticism.

When we are young, we soak everything from our environment like a sponge; we learn about the world, about ourselves and other people from everything we see or hear. The messages important people in our lives send are crucial in shaping what we will believe and how we will behave. For example, if your parents had incredibly high expectations and harshly criticized you for every small mistake, their words may become an integral part of your inner voice, translated into self-judgment. They probably had good intentions – they wanted you to build working habits, to do well in school, to strive for achievement, and minimize mistakes, because they believed this would help you succeed in life and be happy.

This kind of self-talk was probably helpful to you at some point – in order to avoid punishment (both external, such as, for example, being forbidden to go out or watch TV for a month, and internal, which is more powerful – experiencing guilt and shame from failing to meet someone’s expectations), you did well, you achieved great things, and you derived a sense of pleasure from that.

So, not only that self-criticism became an integral part of how you talk to yourself earlier in life, but it’s also kept and strengthened because you may believe it’s a useful strategy. However, as you may realize now as an adult, although self-criticism may seem like it can serve certain functions, it can be psychologically devastating.

self-doubt

How To Tame Your Inner Critic (And Why It’s So Important)

Self-criticism is like living with a bully. That scolding voice that’s giving you a hard time over small things, always looking over your shoulder and keeping inventory of your mistakes, can seriously hold you back in reaching your goals and undermine how you feel about yourself. Self-criticism brings an overriding sense of not being good enough, can keep us from thinking realistically and from being present in our lives, and can contribute to feeling anxious or depressed.

By criticizing ourselves, we focus on our (many times non-existent, or at least exaggerated) weaknesses, or think irrationally. This moves us away from constructive evaluation and inhibits our capacity to be fully present and rationally and actively engage in our lives. Instead, we get so preoccupied with shame, guilt, and frustration that we may make even more mistakes and feel awful about ourselves.

An important thing is – you don’t have to be the victim of your harsh inner voice. Your thoughts have a powerful impact on how you feel and behave.

So how to be more friendly toward yourself when times are challenging? Here are a few tips and techniques.

1. Actively notice and challenge your inner critic

Sometimes, the little voice that puts us down is so embedded in our daily inner monologue that we don’t even notice how harsh it is. What we can do is to pay attention to what the voice is saying but not giving it the power over us. We can commit to notice it and treat it as someone who is unnecessarily rude or annoying, and actively stand up for ourselves, showing it how to be more kind.

Conquering that unrealistic, overexaggerating, harsh inner talk and replacing it with a soothing voice that is not only gentler and kinder, but also more realistic, is possible and more than beneficial. But it’s not easy. Proactively changing the way you talk to yourself may not feel natural immediately. And it’s okay – you are used to one way of thinking and it takes time to rewire your brain and create new pathways. The key is to catch yourself in those unrealistic and extreme statements and not let yourself get away with them.

You’re not good enough. – I don’t need to be perfect to be enough and loveable.

You’re so dumb – Whoops, I made a mistake. Let’s see how I can do better next time.

No one likes you – I don’t need to please everyone all of the time.

You will never make it. – This is really hard, but I believe in myself.

You never get anything right. – I haven’t figured it out yet. Learning is part of the process.

2. Develop a compassionate relationship with yourself

Self-compassion is a way of treating yourself with acceptance and understanding whether or not you behave intelligently, competently, or correctly. It’s having a friendly attitude and sending a message to ourselves: “I see you with your strengths and flaws and it’s okay, I accept the whole of you”.

This is a new concept for many people; it’s different from what we are used to. Thus, there are some misconceptions about it. Some people are afraid that, by being kind to themselves and refusing to engage in self-criticism, they will become lazy or self-indulgent. Others see it as a weakness, something that will stay in the way of their progress. We debunked some of these myths HERE, and provided some tips for practicing self-compassion, so you might want to take a look.

self-compassion

Like a good coach, self-compassion motivates us through love, kindness, and support. This helps us focus less on dwelling on our mistakes, and more on the present moment and moving forward. It is the opposite of self-criticism, which induces guilt and shame. On the surface, self-criticism can seem like it helps to motivate us to change, but in reality, it’s an inefficient motivator. First, because there is a high price to pay for it. And second, because self-criticism might keep us where we are for longer because we may be reluctant to admit our shortcomings, afraid of the overwhelming feeling of not being good enough if we do. In contrast, self-compassion provides us with emotional safety to see ourselves realistically and, from there, acknowledge our mistakes and try to do better.

3. What would you tell to your best friend?

Would you talk to your good friend the way you talk to yourself? When times are challenging and we feel bad, when we are dealing with failure or loss, the last thing we need is to be criticized. Instead, we need someone to help us see things from a realistic perspective and offer support, guidance, and reassurance.

You can be that friend to yourself. Thus, acknowledge your good qualities and abilities, make an effort to appreciate your uniqueness more, and offer caring and gentle words to yourself.

RAIN Technique for Dealing With Difficult Emotions

Sometimes, shame and guilt that come from self-criticism in situations when we make a mistake or fail at something, can be overwhelming for us. So overwhelming, that it becomes difficult to concentrate on anything else, or move away from self-loathing and self-judgment. What we need the most in these situations is something to help us ease the emotional chaos first, and then slowly start overcoming these intense feelings.

In these moments, the RAIN technique can be helpful. It’s a mindfulness technique used to soften and de-channel negative thoughts and provide a soothing balm for emotional pain. It can help you be your best friend instead of your own worst critic.

self-esteem
Here is how to use it:

Step 1: RECOGNIZE what is happening

Take a step back and observe your thoughts and feelings. Be honest and acknowledge what you are feeling without trying to sweep it under the rug. Naming can also help, for example: “I feel worried right now” or “I feel so embarrassed for asking that question”.

“How am I feeling? Where do I feel it in my body?”

Step 2: ALLOW life to be just as it is

Accept that those thoughts and feelings are there, as part of your reality. No denial, no trying to remove or change them, no mental resistance. Just simply let them be there. This doesn’t mean you like them; it just means you are brave enough to face the reality within you.

“These thoughts and feelings are here. I can accept that, even if I don’t like it.”

Step 3: INVESTIGATE with kindness

Like a curious scientist, try to approach your state with interest and without judgment. You can investigate possible reasons you may be feeling this way, or ask if these feelings and thoughts are useful or in line with reality. Simply pause to ask questions so you can better understand what is happening.⠀

○ When did this feeling start?⠀
○ What triggered it?⠀
○ Have I felt this way before?⠀
○ What is this feeling trying to tell me?⠀
○ How realistic is my thinking?⠀
○ Is it helpful?⠀
○ What do I need right now?⠀
○ What can I do to support myself?

self-esteem
Step 4: NON-IDENTIFICATION with thoughts and feelings

When you have an intense emotion, it can feel like it is the only part of you that matters at that moment. But you are not your thoughts and emotions. They come and go, and you can watch them like clouds flowing by. You are YOU, unique and complex, and this is just one of the countless experiences you had and will have.

You can use this technique to ground yourself and not feel consumed by negativity when everything seems just too much. However, we are all different which means that the same things don’t work for everyone or in every situation.

 

How do you deal with self-criticism? Will you apply some of these tips to your daily life? Let us know how it goes!

And be free to share this blog post with your friends and family on social media.

 

Sources:

Aronfreed, J. (1964). The origin of self-criticism. Psychological Review71(3), 193.

Neff, K & Germer, C. (2019) Kind to me. Excerpt in Mindful, 6 (6).

Powers, T. A., Koestner, R., & Zuroff, D. C. (2007). Self–criticism, goal motivation, and goal progress. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology26(7), 826-840.

Brach, T. Working With Difficulties: The Blessings of RAIN. Tara Brach.  Online HERE

toxic positivity

Toxic Positivity: What To Say Instead of “Just Be Positive”

“Everything happens for a reason”

“It could be worse”

“Delete the negativity”

“Just don’t think about it”

“Never give up!”

You’ve certainly said or heard some of these phrases before. It’s fairly common, and people who say them usually have good intentions – they are just trying to help somebody feel better. However, as you probably know if you heard some of them while you were going through difficult times, they don’t work. In fact, they can sometimes make you feel even worse, right?

But why is that? How can too much positivity possibly be a bad thing?

When Positivity Becomes Toxic

Keeping a positive attitude during stressful times can be incredibly helpful. It can help us cope with the situation, feel hope, and keep working toward a solution. However, being positive and optimistic doesn’t mean we won’t ever feel unpleasant emotions. Having a positive attitude is a good thing. Pushing positivity to the detriment of your authentic emotions is not.

Toxic positivity is an idea that we should focus only on positive emotions and positive aspects of life. It’s an attitude that being positive, and only positive, is the right way to live your life. This implies that any unpleasant emotions are considered as negative, and should be avoided.

It would be great if it was possible to feel good all the time. However, not only that it is not, but it can be even harmful to us and the people around us. Rigid and intense as it is, toxic positivity doesn’t leave space for experiencing all human emotions and being authentic. Instead, it encourages the person to remain silent about their struggles.

be positive

Toxic Positivity Can Be Harmful To You And Your Relationships

We have all kinds of emotions. Emotions are messengers. When instead of listening to ourselves and allowing ourselves to feel, even (and especially!) when these feelings are not comfortable, we fight and resist them — we create tension in our body. Different studies show us that hiding or denying feelings, oh the irony, makes them bigger and increases stress.

Our unpleasant emotions show us where we need some gentleness and compassion. They inform us that something is not right, not necessarily in our surroundings, but in the way we see the situation as well. They encourage us to pay attention to the parts of ourselves that need healing or the places in our paths where we need to take a turn. By suppressing or avoiding some emotions, we don’t allow ourselves to fully express and be honest. The result is denial, minimization, and invalidation of authentic emotional experience. When we go into hiding like that, we deny our truth. And the real truth is – life can be tough sometimes.

Toxic positivity can be harmful to your relationships too. When somebody is sad, anxious, fearful, what they need is support and understanding. Generic positive phrases can, although unintendedly, send the message: “You are not allowed to feel this way. Stop. It’s not okay to not be okay.” This is not helpful; it can make the person feel guilty or unheard. To them, it can sound like their emotions are not valid and important, and that they are wrong to feel the way they feel.

 

How To Support Someone Without Being “Too Positive”?

Feeling connected to and heard by others is one of the most important contributors to good mental health and happiness. When someone is going through a rough patch, we may not be sure how to support them. What to say to help them feel better? What to do? How to help them recover from setbacks more quickly? You may be inclined to tell them to “look on the bright side” and to “be grateful for what they already have”. However, these monochromatic statements are usually not helpful, because they are, on the basic level, dismissive. When happiness and positivity are compulsively pushed, the person doesn’t have the opportunity to feel truly heard and accepted, understood and supported. Instead, it can seem like he or she is rushed to stop feeling the way they feel, their emotions minimized and invalidated.

If we, instead, let the other person connect to their emotions and allow them to share them with us without judgment or the urge to run away to positivity, we are giving that person much-needed space to be authentic and still accepted. We are sending the message: “You can be yourself. It’s okay to not feel okay. I am here anyways”.

With toxic positivity, although it is usually not our intention, we are showing the other person that we are uncomfortable with their feelings and that we will put ourselves in the first place, urging them to stop feeling the way they feel so we can stop feeling uncomfortable. A much better, more comforting approach, is to show the other person that we are ready to sit with them with their emotions, that they are not alone, and that we are there to patiently give them our compassion and support.  It can be truly healing.

So, what can you say instead of generic, “encouraging” sentences to support someone? Here are some suggestions:

It is important to acknowledge the reality of our emotions. Once we honour our feelings, we honour the whole of ourselves. We accept our positive parts, but also other, not-so-pretty sides. Accepting and loving ourselves as we are is the path toward balanced emotional life and better well-being.

If you like this article or think someone can find it useful, please be free to share it on your social media or leave a comment down below.

resilience and recovery

3 Things You Can Do to Recover From Setbacks More Quickly

We all face adversities in our lives. Stress, trauma, tragedy, health problems, significant changes in our lives, they are all difficult to experience. However, there is one quality the majority of people share to a greater or lesser extent and that is – resilience.

Resilience is the ability to move through adversaries and rise from them. It is a set of skills and psychological traits that allows us to cope with struggles and recover from them.

Research shows that people, in general, are more resilient than you might think. The majority of people are able to utilize their inner and outer resources to recover from failure or unfortunate events. However, some people need significantly less time to do so.

What Resilient People Do Differently?

People with higher levels of resiliency, on the other hand, approach the situation with a positive attitude and the ability to regulate their emotions. This allows them to be more objective in observing what is going on and how to overcome the situation or at least reduce the damage. Additionally, this helps them move forward without dwelling on the negative outcomes for too long, and reframe the situation in a positive manner.

Fortunately, scientists also found that resilience is something that can be built. There are certain skills that are trainable and that can increase resilience significantly, such as self-compassion, confidence in your strengths and abilities, problem-solving skills, emotion-management.

resilience to recover from failure

Here are three things resilient people are able to do that allows them to bounce back from difficult experiences more quickly and effectively, that you can start cultivating more as well:

They are able to reframe their narrative

When something bad happens, there is not only one way to interpret it. We can choose how we explain the meaning and consequences of events. Highly resilient people are able to reframe difficult situations, at least to some degree, to their advantage. They can see setbacks as a form of helpful feedback, the opportunity to learn, or as something that, in the end, led them to a good path.

They use social support

Resilient people usually don’t act “tough” or like they can cope with everything alone. They lean on their support system and let the people who care about them be there for them. Good relationships are crucial for recovery because they can provide different kinds of support, from emotional to practical.

They practice self-compassion

Being resilient doesn’t mean you have to pretend that you feel okay about the disappointments and failures. It doesn’t mean that you should suffocate your true emotions and put on a happy face. Instead, resilience is kind of the opposite. It’s the ability to accept your unpleasant emotions about the situation without judging yourself harshly. It is about offering yourself some love and kindness while learning from the experience.

recover be happy

All this, of course, does not mean that resilient people don’t feel painful emotions or that they don’t face their feelings, hiding behind the positivity. Resiliency means healthy coping, which suggests that it demands emotions to be felt and accepted before taking action toward recovery.

How easy/hard is it for you to bounce back from a setback?

P.S. We always encourage sharing our articles with your family and friends. You never know, maybe they are in a place in life where they can find it particularly useful.

Sources:

https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10608-016-9774-0

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15298860902979307?casa_token=9NN_FOQ3fxAAAAAA:qo21UDuFDZ8Pmu6OEl-x0VPi2u1fUgWbvdrEFZqXnKUz4w3Pxl3B74hMasAS4npaPkvDy3tVC24

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