from the heart
a blog designed to promote help, hope, healing
It is a commonly asked question: how long do I need to be in therapy before I start feeling better?
If you're going to make the investment of time and money, you likely want to know when therapy is going to start working. Is it right away? After a few sessions?
When I take medicine for a headache I typically don’t have a timer set to check when the medicine is supposed to kick in. I simply trust that the medicine says it is going to do what the bottle is going to do. Eventually the headache goes away.
The journey to mental and emotional health is nothing like taking medicine for a headache. There is no bottle we can read that tells us when to expect results.
And what do the results of being in therapy look like, anyway? They look more abstract than the results of taking an aspirin for a headache. Getting “better” through therapy work may mean that you respond to someone kindly instead of with anger. It may mean that you are able to go to your family thanksgiving without a meltdown. It may mean that you are able to have a difficult conversation or respond well to bad news.
The hard thing about mental health is that there isn't typically a specific moment where we feel “better.” The change can be gradual and we may wake up one morning realizing that we’ve been feeling different for a while. But the results are rarely immediate.
Making positive changes in our lives is a little bit like standing in the shower waiting for it to warm up. You don’t notice the gradual change in temperature as much as you notice when it is finally hot.
Though there is not a specific time frame to “feeling better,” there are ways to know if you are making progress. Consider keeping a journal of your emotions so you can track progress over time. Ask a trusted friend or family member if it seems from the outside like you are doing better. Work with your therapist to set measurable goals to track the progress you’ve made.
You are capable of change and of coming to a place of peace concerning your emotional health. Don’t be discouraged if progress doesn’t look how you feel like it should. Be present through the process and trust yourself. Feeling like you aren’t making progress doesn’t indicate that it is time to give up. Instead, take this as a sign to check in with yourself and others.
The inside joke of counselors is that summer is a total wild card. During the summer many of our clients are out of school. Others are taking vacations. Some feel as if summer is a good time to ‘take a break’ from counseling. The result is that counselors often find ourselves with last minute cancellations and a little extra flexibility in our calendars. It seems as if many people feel like summer is an inconvenient time for them to be in therapy.
The secret is that summer is actually the perfect time to start in therapy.
For school aged kids: kids don’t have the distraction of schoolwork and and the mental effort of going to class every day. School aged kids have a lot more margin in their summer to be engaged in therapy. They have more emotional energy to do their counseling “homework.” It is easier to make an appointment for them when they don’t have school and you aren’t competing with other parents for the afternoon time slots.
For college students: even if you are taking summer classes, you know that summer just feels different. The sun is out more. Athens is a little quieter. And there is a wonderful opportunity to engage in counseling and work on issues that are typically present in the school year. You have more emotional and mental energy to devote to your own personal growth and self-care. You have an opportunity to make mental health a priority.
The best time to start counseling is before a problem starts. The second best time to start counseling is now. For school age kids and college students, August rolls around with a host of issues related to being in school. Anxiety about performance, feeling stressed and over-scheduled, and interpersonal issues all ramp up around school time. You have the opportunity during the summer to get started on working through those issues! It is also a great time to process the previous school year and feel prepared to start again in August.
If you are interested in making an appointment this summer with one of our counselors, please call Bethel Haven at (706) 310-9067.
Core beliefs are something that often come up during the course of therapy. They come up because we live in a world that influences our core beliefs to often be deeply flawed. This often leads to emotional distress.
Core belief are our deeply held beliefs about ourselves that influence the way we interact with others and interpret events. Our core beliefs are, as the name implies, at the very core of how we see ourselves and what we believe ourselves to be.
These beliefs are held deeply and yet without introspection we do not know what they are. Our core beliefs are what are often activated in times of stress or relational discord. If you’ve ever said or thought something and wondered “where did that come from?” you’ve likely experienced an activation of a core belief.
Your core beliefs can be negative: “I’m not good enough” “I’m unlovable” “I’m not capable”
Your core beliefs can be positive: “I am capable” “I am lovable” “I am enough”
These core beliefs are seen in the way we think about situations: “I won’t make the team because I am not good enough for them.” “I don’t make friends because people don’t like me.” “I can never do anything right.” “I always say the wrong thing.”
It is important to know our core beliefs because of how strongly they influence our mood, actions, and thoughts about ourselves. If you approach situations with the belief that “I’m unlovable” you are likely to feel depressed and/or anxious.
A great way to determine your core beliefs might be to talk to a trusted friend or a counselor. A counselor can help you explore where in your history your core beliefs stem from and can help you learn how to change your core beliefs.
If you are interested in making an appointment with one of our counselors at Bethel Haven and learning more about your core beliefs, please call us at 706.310.9046 to schedule an appointment.
Oftentimes counseling is not seen as a preventative measure (even though it can be and is extremely effective when used this way) but instead as a reaction to things getting really bad. So when counseling doesn’t work, the consequences feel huge! Even if this isn’t your last resort, you are likely invested in it being successful.
There are many things concerning therapy that you have control over! Let’s talk about some of the ways you can respond if it feels like therapy is not working:
1. Talk to your therapist.
Ask them if how you are feeling is normal. Should you be seeing more results? What can you and the therapist change about your time together that might make it more helpful? If something about the sessions aren’t working for you, tell your therapist! You are your own best advocate.
2. Do your (therapy) homework.
If your therapist has suggested lifestyle changes such as sleep habits, eating habits, or even visiting the doctor to rule out medical contributors - make sure you’re actually following through. The majority of what makes therapy a success is the work that you as the client do during the week. Your therapist may give you exercises to do during the week. Those can be a vital part of what makes your treatment work.
3. Consider finding a new therapist.
If you are doing all of the above and still aren’t seeing results, consider whether your therapist is a good fit for you. Oftentimes clients can feel stuck in a therapy relationship - perhaps thinking things are working because of them, or maybe not wanting to hurt their therapist’s feelings. If you feel stuck because your therapist doesn’t feel helpful in your journey to move forward, it may be time to find someone new.
You don’t have to give up on therapy if it hasn’t felt helpful! There is a huge variety of therapists, methods of therapy and ways that you can find relief from your problems.
If you are interested in starting therapy, you can contact Bethel Haven at 706.310.9076 to schedule your first appointment.
Maybe you or someone you care about is on the fence about whether or not to start therapy. You aren’t alone - there are many people who delay starting therapy even though they feel like it could potentially help them.
Here are some things to consider if you are unsure about therapy:
It is normal to be nervous
Most people are nervous about the idea of going to therapy for the first time. You aren’t alone! Your therapist will walk you through the process. You can read here more about what to expect from your first therapy session.
You don't have to commit
Going to a therapy session doesn’t mean you’re committing to going for any set period of time. You always have the option to not make another appointment.
Finding the right therapist for you
Finding the right therapist can feel daunting. Ask for recommendations from trusted people in your life or read through therapist bios on their websites. Finding the right therapist for you is possible! And there are many options to choose from.
Therapy can be part of a bigger picture of what helps you
Therapy doesn’t have to feel like a one-stop option. Therapy should be holistic and involve many aspects of your life: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.
The risk is low
If you go to therapy and hate it - you aren’t required to go back. You also aren’t required to stay with a therapist who you don’t connect with. The options are almost endless!
Finances don't have to be a barrier
The idea of going to therapy can be financially intimidating. You may feel that therapy is not affordable for you. At Bethel Haven (and other non-profits) you can find therapy available on a sliding-scale. This means that your income is taken into account when calculating your cost of therapy.
Bethel Haven is committed to providing affordable mental health services to everyone. Finances should not determine whether or not you are able to seek help. Call our office at 706.310.9046 to learn more about making an appointment with a Bethel Haven therapist today!
Most of us care about being successful in the things that we do - a difficult conversation, a project at work, raising our kids, or running a half marathon. We all have things that we would like to do and be successful in doing. There is a simple thing you can do that will help you set yourself up to succeed.
The secret to succeeding is the scale by which you are measuring. The secret to success is determining what you are capable of controlling and opening your hands to the rest.
This is probably the most common conversation I have in the therapy room.
Measure your success by your efforts, not by your outcomes.
Success is setting boundaries in a relationship that has become toxic - not in the way the person responds to those boundaries. You are successful in setting boundaries even if the other person is unhappy about it.
Success is putting in the hours necessary and double checking the work on our project before we turn it in - not how our boss responds. You are successful in finishing your project well even if there are some changes your boss would like you to make.
Success is loving and caring for our kids and teaching them all we can, not the decisions they make when they aren’t with us. You are successful in teaching your kids, even if they choose not to follow your lessons.
Success is in the daily training for the half marathon, not the time it takes to finish. You are successful because you put in the effort and training necessary, not because of a number.
Don’t measure your success by how others respond to you. You set yourself up for failure when your yardstick for success is an ever moving target of other’s opinions.
Measure your success by doing the work you need to do to find the inner confidence to know that your effort has been your best. Doing the right thing is the success. Measure your success by your efforts - not by your outcomes.
It is a very common question - what should I expect from my first meeting with my therapist? It is normal to feel nervous about this first meeting. Every therapist might have a slightly different approach in their pacing of the first session but the basic elements of the first session will be the same. Here are the steps you can expect from your first counseling session (typically called an “intake” session):
1. There will be intake paperwork to fill out.
One of the most important parts of the first therapy session, or the intake session, is the opportunity for your therapist to gather information about your history and reasons for seeking help in therapy. This most often begins with you filling out intake paperwork.
2. You will learn more about your rights as a client, especially your rights to confidentiality.
At the beginning of any intake session your therapist should explain your rights and limits to confidentiality in a way that you understand and feel comfortable with. This includes explaining confidentiality when the client is a minor.
3. Your therapist will explore more about your history by asking you questions.
The general categories of questions will be:
4. Your therapist will help you set treatment goals.
After spending time exploring and giving you the opportunity to express what you feel is important, you therapist will help you set treatment goals. This way you and the therapist can be on the same page in terms of what you would like to be working on together.
5. You and the therapist will set your next appointment.
If you express interest in continuing therapy, you and your therapist will work together to set the next time that you will come in.
Typically the intake session looks very different than the rest of the therapy sessions. Your therapist will most likely take notes during the intake session and may not continue to take notes during future sessions. The intake session may feel different than future sessions because the focus is typically information gathering with the potential for less focus on emotional processing of events. The intake session enables both you and the therapist to make an informed decision about goals for treatment and what the plan for treatment will look like going forward.
Note: Intake sessions for minors will typically look different than intake sessions for adults.
There have been a lot of tragic events happening in the news lately. Some of these events, such as the school shooting in Florida, may be impacting your children more than you know. Children may be consciously or unconsciously dealing with trauma or fear due to these events. How can you help your child process when something like this happens?
1. Validate your child's sadness:
Your child needs to know that feeling sad is a normal and okay reaction when something sad or scary happens. “What happened is really sad. Let’s talk about what makes you feel sad about what happened.” Too often we try to distract from sadness or make it go away. Allowing your child to experience sadness helps them learn that they can be sad and come out okay on the other side.
2. Validate your child's fear:
If your child is feeling fearful after hearing something on the news or at school: “That does sound really scary. I understand why you would feel afraid when you heard about that happening.” Of course we want to comfort children and we don’t want them to live in fear. We also want them to feel heard. We don’t want them to feel like being scared isn’t something they can talk to us about. Being scared isn’t shameful - and in many cases, being scared makes sense.
3. Be ready for tough questions:
“Why do bad people do things to hurt other people?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” These are just some of the many questions a child may have during a tragic event. Decide how you are going to engage with your child when they ask these questions. A simple answer like “I don’t know” may leave your child feeling unheard. If you don’t have a answer to the question your child has, try “I’m not sure, but let’s take some time and talk about this together.” Or “I’m not sure but let’s ask [a moral or spiritual authority].” By taking your child’s questions seriously, you demonstrate to them that you take them seriously and care about what they care about.
4. Don’t let your child live out of fear:
Just like being scared is okay, living scared isn’t. Living stressed and scared is tough on the body of anyone - especially a child. High levels of cortisol impact our immune system strength, can cause anger outbursts and other health and behavioral issues. Help your child learn how to find ways to conquer their fear and support them and encourage them as they do brave things.
5. Know when to seek additional help:
Sometimes grief, loss or worry can become too much for a child and parents to handle on their own. If after a few weeks you child’s behavior doesn’t return to normal or you fear that their behavior is harmful to themselves, seek outside help. Oftentimes counseling is a great place to start.
If you or a loved one are interested in the counseling process, please contact us at 706-310-9046.
The “newness” of the year already feels over, doesn’t it? We are probably back in our old habits, old routines, old ways of thinking. Because the truth of it is - new beginnings feel difficult. At times they feel impossible. We want to change something about ourselves but we feel discouraged. We don’t feel like this is the time to start over. We don’t feel hopeful about something new.
The Lord desires for us to be refreshed, to be steadfast in him. He does not desire a life for us that feels stale and tired.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
The Lord desires that we keep faith. That we do not lose hope. And that, even as we grow older each day, our inward selves are renewed. The potential for change is always alive in us.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16
The Lord desires that beauty comes from even the worst circumstances. That we have gladness instead of mourning. That we praise him instead of giving up. That we are steadfast in our belief.
To grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3 ESV
It is never too late for us. It is never too late for the Lord to do great work in us. Through him, the time for new beginnings has not passed. His time is forever, and always, now.
Sometimes changing something about our lives begins with help from someone else. A counselor can be a great resource for someone hoping to make a change. To learn more about the counseling services we offer at Bethel Haven or to make an appointment call us at 706.310.9056.
Written by our counselors to help promote your help, hope, healing