Therapy sessions are a great source of support, but what do you do for the rest of your week in between sessions? Most of the work that is done in therapy is actually done between sessions, when you’re living your actual life. That’s where you’ll get opportunities to apply what you’ve learned, try new skills, and see what still needs work.
Most of our lives are spent outside of the therapy room. Therapy is typically only one hour out of every week. There are 168 hours in a week, so that’s a lot of time in which to apply what you talked about in therapy and reflect on where you want to go next. It’s also possible that what you talk about in therapy can bring up heavy, emotional responses. It might be tough to go a whole week in between sessions with your therapist. If you find yourself struggling to cope between sessions, let your therapist know. Doing a bit of work between your sessions can help you make the most of your time in therapy, although it’s not required to have a good outcome.
Thankfully, there are lots of ways that you can support your mental health between therapy sessions. Here are 9 things to do between therapy sessions:
Journal between sessions
One of the best ways to process your thoughts between therapy sessions is to keep a journal. Journaling is a powerful practice that allows you to pick out patterns, explore your feelings, and keep a record of what’s going on in your life. You can track symptoms, keep an eye on your moods, and take note of anything weighing on your mind in your journal. You may even find a journal can be helpful to pinpoint your specific triggers.
Do your homework
Some therapists give out assignments or homework at the end of the session to help continue integrating what you talked about. Some after-therapy assignments might be to journal, fill out a worksheet, have a conversation, or do something for yourself, among other things. Assignments are a chance to apply what you talked about with your therapist. They can also give you an opportunity to build your self-esteem between sessions. Successfully completing a task or crossing something off your mental to-do list can make you feel great!
Assigning homework is generally based on therapist preference, but you can always ask your therapist for some concrete things to work on between sessions if you’re looking for more ways to support your mental health before your next appointment.
Talk with a friend or family member about what you’re working on in therapy sessions
This is dependent on your comfort level, but if you’re open to it, talk to a trusted friend or family member about what you’re working on in therapy. If you have other people in your life who are also going to therapy, you might find that you can help support one another. You can talk about what you’re working on between sessions, new coping skills you’ve learned, or even just share things that your therapists have said that you found helpful. Openly talking about your mental health is a gift to those around you – it helps lessen mental health stigma, which hurts everyone.
Keep a list of things to talk about at your next session
Have you ever wondered what in the world you’re going to talk about in your next therapy session? You’re not alone. Or maybe you find that you have so many ideas of what you want to talk about that you have a hard time prioritizing which is most important. Keeping a list of things to bring up at your next session can be a helpful way to organize your thoughts before your next appointment.
Take note of your progress
When you’re in the midst of something, it can be hard to remember how far you’ve come. Take some time before your next therapy session to write down some ways you’ve progressed since you started therapy. Are you learning new coping skills? Did you deal with something in a way that pleased you? When you take note of all the little ways you progress, you’ll feel more motivated to keep working on your mental health. It can be hard to feel like you’re making a difference if you don’t feel 100% “better” yet, so make sure to celebrate every win you can.
Make a coping skills box
If you find yourself looking for ways to manage distress between sessions, try making a coping skills box. You can keep notecards in there about things you’ve discussed with your therapist, affirmation cards, or even cards from therapy skills decks that they sell online. You can also keep anything in there that’s comforting to you – try soft objects, like blankets or stuffed animals; sensory objects, like silly putty, mints, or aromatherapy products; pictures of yourself at different ages; distractions, like puzzles, crafts, or a book; a journal; grounding objects to help lower anxiety; instructions for meditation, mindfulness, or breathwork exercises; and contact information for who to reach out to in an emergency or in moments of high distress.
You may even find it helpful to keep some healthy snacks and bottled water in there! The next time you’re distressed between sessions, pull out your box and work on self-soothing to hold you over.
Give yourself something to look forward to
Sometimes the days between therapy sessions all run together and feel empty. It can help to give yourself some things to look forward to every week. Can you get coffee from your favorite cafe on a certain morning? Are you able to have dinner with a friend, or maybe take yourself out for a movie? Whatever is exciting for you, try to find ways to sprinkle that into your everyday life. Having things to look forward to is highly motivating!
Take time to rest
Therapy is hard work. Make sure you’re giving yourself adequate time to rest and recover between sessions. Practice self-care, set boundaries, and let yourself rest. It can be hard to sit around and do nothing these days, but numbing out in front of social media or a tv isn’t the same as getting actual rest. Find things that nourish and rejuvenate you physically and emotionally, and make those a priority. If resting means being alone with your thoughts and that is scary for you, talk to your therapist about ways to manage that discomfort in your next session. You deserve rest, no matter what.
Use a hotline
If it’s an emergency between sessions, a crisis hotline is always available at 1-800-273-8255 or by texting HOME to 741741. There is no shame in getting support and talking to someone instead of trying to go it alone.