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Be Your Own Therapist

Sarah Chana Radcliffe, M. Ed., C. Psych

These do-it-yourself therapeutic strategies can help you heal from long-ago childhood wounds, manage everyday stress, and process painful experiences in a healthy way

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

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R

ecently, a Mishpacha reader (let’s call her Michal) wrote in with a question: Is it possible to be your own therapist? Can you heal from childhood wounds on your own? What can you do to not repeat destructive patterns you witnessed growing up? Is there a way to identify and ultimately eliminate your triggers — without a professional’s guidance?

I wondered why Michal didn’t want to see a therapist. Was she concerned about the possible stigma associated with mental health treatment? Maybe it was a lack of money — a real deterrent for many — or a lack of faith in the process. Or perhaps Michal couldn’t make the time commitment that therapy might entail.

There are plenty of reasons why a person might choose not to address issues in a therapeutic context. But in some cases, the price of not accessing therapy is far greater than the costs — emotional, financial, and/or social — of accessing it. For instance, professional help is critical if you’re struggling with issues that are seriously disrupting your life: major depression, harmful addictions, dangerous eating disorders, severe relationship difficulties, or any other condition that causes intense distress and/or inability to function fully in daily work and social activities.

If, however, you’re struggling with something like normal relationship challenges, residual pain from childhood, low mood, high anxiety, irritability, and intense stress — the answer to Michal’s question is “yes.” There is a way to help yourself heal from painful experiences without seeking professional treatment. It’s called self-therapy, and it comes in many forms. 

Good Mental Health Hygiene

Imagine a young woman who consumes tons of sweets, rarely brushes or flosses her teeth (thereby allowing plaque to build up and bacteria to fester), ignores pain-filled warning signs (by popping pain relievers), and never visits a dentist for routine checkups. Would you be surprised if this woman had a major dental crisis?

Our mental health works the same way. If you don’t get enough sleep and rarely exercise (i.e., you don’t take care of your body), you brush emotional problems under the table (thereby allowing them to pile up and fester), you ignore pain-filled warning signals (by turning to pain relievers, addictions, and distractions), and you never check in with yourself (with or without the help of a therapist), you’re basically setting yourself up for a mental health crisis.

Good mental health — like good dental health — requires daily attention to prevent an accumulation of unresolved negativity. 

 

One could write an entire book about each aspect of preventative mental health care: Building and maintaining satisfying and supportive relationships; engaging in meaningful activities; having a rich spiritual and communal life; being financially secure; engaging in regular exercise; eating and sleeping properly; making daily time to unwind and relax; and tapping regularly into pleasure, fun, and creativity.

In addition, there’s self-therapy. Since emotional pain impacts the body, heart, and mind, self-therapy strategies have been developed to address all three of these areas. Interestingly, it’s been found that targeting just one area (for example, the mind) will inevitably affect the other two (the body and heart). With that in mind, here are some strategies for dealing with painful experiences, whether it’s a long-ago childhood incident or a current stressful day at work.

 

 


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