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How This Toolkit Helps People Explore Their Mental Health Outside of Therapy

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I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Linn Martinsen, psychotherapist and creator of the revolutionary Therapy Toolkit: Sixty Cards for Self-Exploration. We discussed this new toolkit she created as well as how we should all manage our mental health as the pandemic continues to change. Read about Martinsen’s Therapy Toolkit below and enjoy the interview!

About the Therapy Toolkit: Sixty Cards for Self-Exploration:

“You may want to throw this box at the wall,” admits author Linn Martinsen. Therapy Toolkit features 60 cards written by an experienced and qualified therapist that help the user explore their mental health matters in a compassionate and safe space.

Though some are open to the therapeutic process, others are nervous or trepidatious. Without cost barriers or shame and stigma attached, Martinsen’s thoughtful “pandora box” of therapy cards, divided into four categories — experiences, emotions, relationships, and childhood — invites anyone into the intricate process and idea of psychotherapy.

Each beautifully illustrated card in the deck features questions and reflections that emulate the process of therapy. The cards work together in a cohesive way to guide the user through a journey of self-exploration in a place and at a pace that’s right for them to create deep, meaningful change.

As we come out of the challenging months of the pandemic, there’s never been a more important time to offer people what Therapy Toolkit provides. With these cards, users will have the capacity to understand where their reactivity comes from and learn to have compassion for themselves — and others — in meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing world.

As Martinsen’s colleague John Mackessy, psychotherapist, says:

These cards offer a tool that could work exceptionally well either alongside therapy or as an alternative path to self-exploration. With these cards, people can begin to explore and make sense of issues outside of the therapeutic hour and decide for themselves on what they’d like to work.

Though not a replacement to therapy, Therapy Toolkit is a gentle primer for or complement to therapy. A comprehensive booklet that includes an introduction to the therapeutic process, tips on using the deck, and a list of resources for further guidance accompanies the deck.

Ashley: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.

Linn: From the mountain to the melting pot… Despite all my years in London, I still feel deeply connected to the girl who collected thousands of hours and scars on gnarly trees and in rocky rivers in rural Norway. The youngest of eight sisters (five of whom I grew up with), I spent much of my time trailing their coolness and soaking up their goodness, all the while carrying around a notebook to make sense of things the best I could (a rather endearing read in retrospect).

Mid-teens to early twenties saw a whirlwind few years of acting, TV production, and travel before putting all my belongings in storage and buying a one-way ticket to London. It may not have been the most well thought out plan, but this sudden decision to up sticks to England all those years ago brought me to this moment right now, with two beautiful sons, a loving co-parent relationship, a wonderful partner, and two beautiful stepdaughters (sorry Bumble, and a cute cocker spaniel).

Ashley: What made you want to become a therapist?

Linn: In short, I decided to become a therapist because of the riches of compassion and potential for change I experienced with therapy both firsthand and through others. Also, my initial certificate course was such an amazing and eye-opening experience that I decided to immerse myself fully in the continued training.

Ashley: How did you get inspiration to create the Therapy Toolkit deck of cards?

Linn: It occurred to me a few years ago that therapy, and especially the core elements of psychotherapy (which are so fundamental and apply to us all, especially how our formative story shapes how we feel about ourselves and how we relate to others) is not accessible to everyone. Either for financial reasons or because the literature connected to it is so complex and intricate. The initial thought was to create an affordable and accessible workshop anyone could attend, but when a friend wondered if it could also work in a simple, written format to be explored in your own time I started reshaping the idea and came up with the concept of the toolkit.

Ashley: What do you hope people will get out of using the Therapy Toolkit?

Linn: My hope is that the Therapy Toolkit can help demystify and destigmatize the world of therapy a bit and show how universal a lot of the things we struggle with as human beings are, particularly things we tend to carry in the shadows such as shame, anger, and fear. It’s important to note the Therapy Toolkit is not therapy, which is a beautiful process of creating a trusting relationship in which you are supported to fully emerge with all you carry. The Therapy Toolkit is simply a gentle voice letting you know we all carry difficult things and it’s OK to ask questions, it’s OK to grieve, and it’s more than OK to seek support. Compassion for the aching loneliness that can be experienced in our individual human complexity is really at the heart of the toolkit.

Ashley: Do you have any guidance on how we should manage our mental health as the world begins to open back up?

Linn: Two words come to mind immediately: patience and compassion. Patience with ourselves and with others, and compassion for ourselves and for others. I notice around me that, despite a semblance of normality resuming in many places, tempers can flare more quickly, insecurities are more pronounced and felt more deeply, and a general feeling of exhaustion is permeating many people’s lives.

We are in essence a world full of “walking wounds” right now, in some cases without even realizing it. Wounds suddenly exposed to the elements, where the slightest breeze or accidental brush can set off the impulse to either lash out or to shrink back.

I think the best and most compassionate way to look after ourselves and each other now that the world is opening again is to pay attention to how we feel about and react to the world around us, and to slow down and focus on self-nurture as much as we can. Some may feel desperate to throw themselves back into life again, but consider when this may become too overwhelming and allow time to emerge at a pace that feels more comfortable, even if this pace is new compared to before.

Initiating intimate and honest conversations with people you trust — whether that is a friend, a family member, or a charity who offers listening support can be a good place to start.

It’s not unusual to think that “everyone else is coping/doing so much better,” but rest assured, you are not alone in feeling vulnerable right now, at different times and in different ways. It’s OK and normal if you and your relationships need extra support and extra time to recover.

You can order your own Therapy Toolkit on Laurence King.

Lead image via Linn Martinsen

Originally published: October 9, 2021
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