Five Tips on Starting Therapy

Are you thinking about starting therapy? Here are some tips to beginning the process:

1)  Find a therapist who is a good fit. It may take time to find someone who you feel comfortable with. Sometimes you can get a sense of compatibility on the phone before setting up a session. If you start with a therapist who you don’t connect with, it’s okay to move on and begin working with someone else.

2)  Pick your orientation. There are many different styles and approaches to therapy. If you’ve been in therapy before, think about what therapeutic orientations have worked in the past. If you’ve never been in therapy before, it could be helpful to do some research about what options are out there.

3)  Try to attend therapy once a week.  Progress usually happens more quickly when you come more often.

4)  Set goals. These goals can be concrete or opened ended, but they provide structure in therapy and can be a great baseline to measure progress over time.  Goals also can change and morph throughout the therapy process.

5)  Know that therapy is a process, not an event.  Sometimes therapy can bring up topics and emotions that are unexpected, which can feel unsettling at first.  Big changes usually do not happen overnight and it might take a while to feel better.

Five Reasons to Start Therapy

Starting therapy can take a lot of courage. It can be challenging to open up to a stranger and to know where to begin. But often, reaching out for help from a therapist can be the first step towards feeling better. Here are some indicators that therapy could be helpful in your life:

1)  When you’ve been trying on your own, but things aren’t getting any better.  Sometimes situations are too overwhelming to deal with on your own.  If ways you’ve helped yourself in the past aren’t working, it may be an opportunity to learn new tools.

2)  When you feel unable to talk to friends or family. It’s can be rewarding to lean on loved ones for support, but there are some issues that you may not feel comfortable sharing with them. It can be helpful to work with someone neutral, who can give feedback and support objectively.

3)  When you are ready to work hard and make changes.  Modifying patterns in relationships, revisiting past experiences and shifting old ways of thinking can be incredibly challenging. Therapy takes work, but can lead to transformative results.

4)  When you feel stuck. Do you ever find yourself repeating unwanted patterns in your life? It can be difficult to find ways to cope and change thoughts and behavior, especially when you don’t know why those patterns exist. Therapists can be guides in this process.

5)  When you’re going through a transition. It may be a great time for you to get to know yourself better and to get additional support to deal with changes in your life.

Beginning therapy can feel vulnerable. But even though asking for help can be hard, it can be relieving to know that you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself.


Have you ever noticed that some tasks are incredibly easy to complete, but others feel nearly impossible to start? Here are some tips to help decrease procrastination:

1)   Break large tasks into smaller parts that are easily achieved.  Make sure each small task is manageable and realistic. Set aside a small chunk of time to work on a task. Sometimes even the smallest amount of time can be a great way to gain momentum. Set an alarm for 15 minutes and see what you can complete in that amount of time.

2)   Acknowledge your discomfort.  Usually, thinking or worrying about starting a task can feel even more difficult than actually doing it.  Practice noticing when discomfort is associated with certain tasks and remind yourself why they are hard for you. It can also be helpful to journal about your avoidance to gain self-awareness and clarity.

3)   Put away electronics or other distractions.  Leave your phone in the other room. If you need to work on the computer, disconnect your internet or block certain sites, like Facebook or Twitter. If you have pets, put them in the other room temporarily. Give yourself the space to focus.

4)   Remember that things only have to be good enough. They don’t have to be perfect! If you have high expectations you are more likely to be disappointed with your performance. The goal is completion, not perfection, especially with tasks that feel difficult.

5)   Balance out unpleasant tasks with fun and rewarding activities. Try not to schedule all the uncomfortable responsibilities at one time. Break them up with activities that feel easier and more enjoyable for you.

Sometimes all you can do is take small steps. Practice being aware of expectations you place on yourself and try to accept your limitations. We can’t be perfect and we definitely can’t be 100% productive all the time. Give yourself the opportunity to meet your goals by finding ways to manage procrastination.

Holiday Self Care

The holidays can be a stressful time of year. Holidays can be full of love and joy, but can also bring up loss and painful memories. And despite having time off, self care is often neglected in favor of celebrations and activities. It can be useful to plan ahead for the holiday season so you feel more rested and prepared for the New Year. Here are some self care tips for the holidays:

1)  Think about what you want ahead of time. This seems obvious, but is often harder than it seems. You may think you HAVE to participate in certain traditions, travel, or celebrations because you usually do, but it’s important to think about whether or not you WANT to. Reflecting on what parts of the holidays you enjoy can help you make decisions about what you want to show up for. When your plans are internally driven by YOUR wants and needs, you are more likely to enjoy the holidays. Might as well take advantage of your time off!

2)  Ask for what you want. Share your thoughts about the holidays. Be a part of the planning and involve yourself in preparations. Give your input about where and how to celebrate. If you don’t let people know what you want for the holidays, they won’t know how to accommodate what you want. It also helps people who love you feel closer to you. Even if family traditions feel inflexible, you can still be authentic in asserting what you want.

3)   Know your limits and set boundaries. If the holidays bring up uncomfortable feelings for you, it is especially important to set boundaries and know your personal rules ahead of time. It’s possible that you may need to set boundaries about what holiday activities you will or will not participate in, where you will stay, who you will see and how long you wish to stay. Usually past experiences inform these decisions (see # 10).

4)  Have reasonable expectations. It’s easy to romanticize the holidays, but it’s important to be realistic about what to expect. If certain problems usually arise during the holidays then it is likely those same issues will come up again. Talking through expectations with friends or loved ones ahead of time can be a great way to be more realistic about what to expect.

5)  Take breaks. During the holidays you’re often around people a lot. It’s important to know when to take time for yourself, even if it’s a short break. Taking a walk, calling a friend, journaling, or watching some TV are all great examples of ways to unwind and decompress.

6)  Make time for the basics. Taking care of your basic needs like sleeping, eating, and grooming can make a big difference in how you feel.

7)  Maintain at least part of your routine. It may be impossible to do all of your regular activities during the holidays, but it is possible to keep up with some of them. If you find that certain parts of your routine like exercise, spiritual practices, or recovery programs help you feel more grounded, try to make time for them in your holiday schedule. It can be helpful to plan these activities in advance before the holidays ensue.

8)  Incorporate time for FUN. This is time just for you! Be playful and enjoy your time off!

9)  Create your own traditions. There is always room to explore new holiday traditions and incorporate them into your life. It can feel satisfying to define the holidays for yourself by creating additions to the family traditions you grew up with.

10)  Make a list of lessons learned that you can review next year. At the end of the holiday season, it can be helpful to do some writing about positive and not so positive holiday experiences that will inform your decision-making next year. Some questions to answer when writing: What did you like/not like? How did you feel when doing certain activities? Where you happy with your travel plans and/or accommodations? What would you change? Do you need to set any boundaries for next year? This list can be a work in progress. Adding lessons learned from year to year can be a great way to discover how you like to spend the holidays.

Most importantly, think about how to make this time of year special to you. Happy Holidays!