5 Mental Health Support Tools to Use Between Therapy Sessions
In my own treatment and in working with individuals and families, I have experience with therapy downtime. Whether someone is between sessions, switching therapists or even waiting for their very first appointment, this lapse or anticipation can cause its own anxiety or stress. What can we do in this in-between to manage symptoms, keep progressing with recovery or ask for help? These are some resources and strategies to try during therapy downtime.
1. Virtual Therapy
One thing we’ve learned through this pandemic is how much can be done virtually. While a lot of support and therapeutic groups had already existed virtually, organizations and professionals have been motivated or mandated to provide groups online or by phone. This means someone in North Dakota could access a support group normally offered in California. In addition, local therapeutic groups can be held on Zoom rather than in an office. What a great opportunity to show off your cute pets!
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also published a list of resources including organizations that offer support groups, education, and assistance.
Sometimes between therapy sessions or when someone is getting ready to see a new therapist for the first time, they want to “brush up” on their mental health skills or organize their thoughts and feelings. There are countless books available to purchase online which include worksheets on anxiety, depression, personality disorders, self-esteem, stress, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) — almost any mental health condition, treatment or topic. Therapists will often recommend books or worksheets you can work on between sessions.
One online source for free downloadable mental health worksheets is TherapistAid.com. They also offer videos, interactive tools, educational information and relevant articles. I’d recommend trying these worksheets independently or with people in your support system.
Therapy downtime is a great opportunity to practice coping skills and self-care. Your therapist may have mentioned specific coping skills like grounding or you might already have a toolbox of coping skills like deep breathing or making art. Using this time to practice coping skills will not only help you manage symptoms, but practicing will allow you to understand what works best for you. Similarly, implementing self-care can take practice. Schedule time for self-care into your day like taking a warm shower, reading a book, spending time with family and enjoying nature.
PositivePsychology.com has a list of coping skills you can try out at home and then discuss with your therapist.
One common activity people use for both self-care and as a coping skill is journaling. People journal to write down their thoughts, express their creativity, and tell their personal stories in a therapeutic and personal way. These journals can either be brought to a therapy session or kept at home for your use only. PsychCentral published a list of 30 journaling prompts to help you get started.
4. Online Communities
Online communities have existed for many years, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made these groups more popular as interaction and peer support has become largely virtual. Social media websites and specific apps have become platforms people to connect, ask questions, find/offer support, and share stories. There are groups for people living with a mental health condition, family members and specialized groups for specific diagnoses. It is crucial to be mindful of what is helpful for you in an online group or community. As a disclaimer, not all online communities are supportive. Always trust your instincts!
The Mighty has information and groups for people living with any disability or condition and their support systems. You can connect with peers, read inspiring stories and attend their many free virtual groups. I facilitate the Mental Health Reset on Sundays!
5. Crisis Hotlines
Last, whether you feel like you need them now or not, it is important to know where to call or text in a mental health crisis. The Mental Health America and NAMI links above mention several mental health hotlines and warmlines. You can also call your local mental health clinic or visit your county’s official website for local resources.
MentalHealth.gov is the United States Government website addressing mental health topics and issues and provide tips on talking about mental health and identifying warning signs. They also list the national resources to contact in a crisis.
While the lines above are specific to the United States, United for Global Mental Health is a website listing many global crisis lines.
Whether you are waiting for a therapist or you’re hanging out between sessions, you have taken initiative to focus on your mental health, learn and recover. Use therapy downtime to be kind to, forgive and better understand yourself. Every moment of your day, you are worthy of letting yourself heal and feel better.
Photo by Adomas Aleno on Unsplash