4 Tips For Taking Care of Your Mental Health and Why Seeking Therapy Might Be Right for You
There are many reasons someone might decide to go to therapy, whether they’ve experienced something traumatic, have something nagging at them, or are feeling depressed, to name a few examples.
Regardless of why you feel you might want to see a therapist, it’s important to identify the things you can do to improve your mental health — and what you want to get out of therapy.
“Someone might seek therapy if they are in crisis like a recent breakup or death of a loved one or they are starting to recognize the patterns they are repeating which are causing problems or keeping them stuck,” says Aparna Sagaram, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder and owner of A Space to Reflect, Therapy and Coaching in Philadelphia.
A Space to Reflect, Therapy and Coaching places an emphasis on pairing clients with therapists with similar lived experiences who can guide them with whatever they’re going through. Here, Sagaram offers some tips on improving your mental health and explains why seeing a therapist might be right for you.
Think About How Therapy Might Work for You
Once you make the decision to go to therapy, it’s important to think about what your goals are going in. At A Space to Reflect, help is available to anyone who might want to seek therapy, but their specialty is in assisting clients who come from minority communities, specifically first and second generation people.
“One of the biggest values of our practice is really emphasizing that each client story is unique,” Sagaram says. “Once we have a better understanding of the client’s story, we work with them to make choices and change behavior that feels good for them. Sometimes this looks like sitting with them in their pain to help them make sense of their reality. We truly believe a client knows themselves best and our team uses that value to empower clients.”
Having a therapist who has similar lived experiences as you can be extremely helpful, so doing your research is important. There might be certain customs within your culture or background that guide the way you live your life, and if your therapist is aware of these practices, you can better establish common ground quickly.
“A lot of therapists specialize across different topics, and it’s really helpful for a client to feel connected to their therapist,” Sagaram says. “Having someone who can understand without a client having to explain why they can’t necessarily set a specific boundary or cut off from family is extremely helpful.”
Identify Your Behavior Patterns
The early stages of therapy are marked by learning what specifically has a detrimental effect on your mental health.
For example, if you’re someone who constantly says “Yes” or often finds yourself stretched thin, Sagaram recommends exploring the triggers or situations you find yourself in that make you feel like you don’t have options.
“If you’re just feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness or frustration, and you don’t really know why, then your therapist can help you explore to understand that better,” Sagaram says. “You learn how to become aware of yourself and your therapist will teach you how to do that so you can start to do it on your own.”
Evaluate Your Relationships
The factors that contribute to your mental health can be internal and external. Sometimes, the people around you can drive negative feelings you’re having. Sagaram says that these different indicators can come in many forms, whether it’s a relationship that’s no longer working or people in your life who might be causing you stress.
“You might start to recognize that someone in your life is causing more harm than good but you may not be in a place to hold them accountable,” Sagaram says. “That’s usually how things can start to come up in therapy — when you feel bothered by someone or something in a situation, and you start to peel back those layers.”
Commit to Your Therapy Work
What you do outside of therapy is as important as what happens within a session. If you’re not deliberate in applying the tools and awareness you learn in therapy in your daily life, then you might not get the results you’re hoping for. Being willing to stay consistent with these strategies is the best way to stay on a path toward improving your mental health.
At A Space to Reflect, Sagaram and her team have clients leave with a takeaway to remember for the week. Clients usually journal about this takeaway or repeat it out loud as a way of remaining accountable and committed to their mental health work.
“When you are consistent with therapy, it becomes part of your routine and dialogue,” Sagaram says. “It’s not that you just do one hour, and then that’s it — you have to learn to integrate lessons into your life. And that consistency truly is key.”This is a paid partnership between A Space to Reflect, Therapy and Coaching and Philadelphia Magazine's City/Studio