An Unconventional Guide to the Benefits of Therapy
You probably already know some basic things about the benefits of therapy and how therapy can help people. I’m sure you’ve experienced or heard about how therapy can teach you coping skills and how you can learn to be more compassionate with yourself and how you can feel less depressed or anxious. That’s all true, and I can certainly help you work on those things. But there are other benefits of therapy that you may not be familiar with.
Therapy is not all in your mind– it’s in your brain too
People sometimes talk about how some things affect your mind and others affect your body. But, that seems like a confusing distinction to me. For example, there’s lots of research in recent years that shows that psychotherapy works by changing your brain (which is most definitely part of your body). One study concluded that these changes came from clients accepting themselves and consequently no longer being upset by neurotic thoughts and typical self-criticism. See here, and here, and here.
Therapy helps physical symptoms get better
Depression, anxiety, trauma, and even general dissatisfaction with some aspects of your life cause physical symptoms and resolving these issues can improve those physical symptoms. You’re probably aware of how some people get knots in their stomach or headaches when they’re worried about something. Something similar happens when we try to shove unwanted thoughts or feelings into the back corner of our minds and forget about them. Those thoughts and feelings don’t really get forgotten usually; instead they often show up as teeth grinding, or back pain, or exhaustion, or many other things. One of the amazing benefits of therapy is how these physical problems can get better fairly easily, with the right tools. For a sneak peek at one if the tools I use to help with this, click here [PDF].
With the benefits of therapy, everyday life takes less effort
Try a little experiment at home– stand in front of a door and tense your muscles, then keep them tense while you try to open the door. What was that like? Kind of hard, probably. Now close that door and stand in front of it again and relax your muscles. Open the door again. What was that like? Different, I’m guessing. And most likely it didn’t take as much effort to open the door the second time. One of the benefits of therapy is that as you become more comfortable with yourself, your daily tasks will take less physical and mental effort. This is a benefit that people often see early in the therapy process.
Relationships improve, even if you never talk about them in therapy
Here’s another plug for self-acceptance– it extends to the people around you. As you are able to see that you are ‘only human’ and much more normal than you probably realized, you will naturally see others’ humanity more clearly. And when you feel calmer, more steady, and stronger it’s pretty easy to respond to others with greater patience, kindness, empathy, and love.
These are just a few of the often over-looked benefits of therapy. What have you gotten out of therapy that you didn’t expect?