If you’ve struggled with anxiety, stress, depression, or distressing life circumstances, you might be eager to see a licensed therapist and begin feeling better. Therapy sessions are productive and beneficial, but often leave you feeling many positive things, negative things, and everything in between.
Some situations in life can cause a person to experience physical, emotional, behavioral, and mental health changes. When it becomes too much to bear—and even before that point—it can be beneficial to go to personal counseling.
Knowing that therapy can be good for you, you may tell yourself that you’ll feel great when you leave sessions with a licensed therapist. You may expect to leave feeling happier and more positive. And in many cases, people do feel this way after spending time with their therapist. But not always. This is why it’s so important to care for yourself after your personal counseling session. Therapy is an empowering experience but also a learning experience that requires hard work. That requires acknowledging painful memories and feelings tucked away in the corners of the mind and heart.
At Pure Health Center, we recognize that people may experience various emotions and feelings following therapy. Whether you’ve had an excellent session with your therapist or feel deep fatigue that needs a little more attention, described below are practical after-therapy self-care tips and reasons why they matter.
What Happens in Personal Counseling?
No two individuals, couples, or families experience therapy the same. Ultimately, your therapy experience depends on what you need. For some, personal counseling is temporary for learning to navigate a distressing life event. Others may go to therapy for years to meet different mental and emotional needs in their lifetime. Some clients’ psychotherapy goals may be identifying problematic thought patterns and adopting healthier ones. Others may hope to improve their interpersonal skills.
It’s common for early therapy sessions to involve therapists asking their clients many questions to learn about them, their history, and their needs. These conversations enable therapists to identify any themes or patterns in their clients’ lives that may affect their mental health. Topics that commonly come up in personal counseling sessions include one’s:
- School or work life
- Values and beliefs
At Pure Health Center, clients have a nonjudgmental, safe space to discuss these topics with compassionate, licensed therapists. Our therapists specialize in personal counseling for:
- Relationship difficulties
- Self-esteem issues
- Eating disorders
- Healing from trauma
- Managing stress and anger and much more
Our team members use their expertise and compassion to help clients confront barriers that impede their mental and emotional well-being.
How Should You Feel After a Counseling Session?
There’s no one way to feel immediately after or later on following a personal counseling session. Conversations with a therapist typically involve dredging up difficult memories, situations, thoughts, and emotions, which is why after-therapy self-care is crucial. You may feel uncomfortable at first. You may feel nervous and vulnerable opening up about things you tried to close yourself off from. You may relive trauma, anger, sadness, regret, humiliation, disappointment, or pain you tried to suppress, causing you to feel exhausted, drained, and depleted. Yet, you may feel relieved you’re no longer holding things in but processing them. All of this is completely normal and expected.
Still, you may be wondering why you don’t immediately feel the relief that was promised to you when you start therapy, and here’s why. Identifying and processing your traumatic memories, stressors, interpersonal challenges, and difficult symptoms can be nerve-wracking because:
- Therapy is new to you
- You aren’t used to discussing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences
- You’re confronting things you’ve suppressed or avoided
- You’re discussing triggering memories, such as childhood trauma
- You’re discussing current challenges, such as COVID-19-induced anxiety or fear
Releasing stressors that have held your mind and body captive can take just as much or more energy as keeping them bottled inside. Especially if you didn’t have the coping skills to deal with them. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Trust yourself and your therapist. Remember that growing pains happen just as much in the mind as they do in the body.
As your sessions progress, you may begin feeling proud of the positive changes you notice in your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and stress responses. You may feel more compassion toward yourself after therapy. Perhaps, you better understand why past situations impacted your thoughts and behaviors. Maybe you judged yourself too harshly for being unable to regulate your emotions at the end of therapy sessions. Improved mental health symptoms and daily functioning can have you feeling lighter after therapy. Remember, even if you started therapy to relieve mental and emotional pain, personal counseling sessions aren’t just for discussing hardships. When you and your therapist begin discussing your progress, successes, and strengths, you may feel hopeful in the face of hopelessness. You may feel encouraged to bring about change outside of the therapy room.
Effective Ways to Engage in After-Therapy Self-Care
Therapy sessions can inspire a range of emotions from exhausted to energized. Even the lightest, most uplifting sessions can require after-therapy self-care. Below are some ways to care for yourself after therapy that can help you tend to and regulate your feelings.
When You Feel Depleted
Experiencing various negative, neutral, and positive feelings is nothing to fear. It may signify you’re actively engaged in therapy. Making changes in life and trying to improve your circumstances takes effort, dedication, and time. It involves deconstructing old patterns and exploring your current ones to make a fresh way for the new. It can be depleting and make you zone out.
If this sounds like you, consider:
- Taking time to treat yourself. Therapy is a productive process but an emotional one. Reward yourself for your progress. In therapy, clients learn to avoid substance use, emotional eating, or impulse shopping as coping mechanisms. Instead, turning to your favorite books, songs, and movies, taking hot baths or showers, and other relaxation and pampering forms are encouraged as rewarding after-therapy self-care methods.
- Being physically active. Moving your body can help boost your happiness and health. Exercising can reduce your stress levels and blood pressure. Just a walk around your neighborhood can help you clear your mind. Physical after-therapy self-care is one way to show your body and mind some deserved TLC.
When You Feel Heavy
Pay attention to how you feel after therapy. You may feel anxious, irritable, confused, relieved, or all the above. When your mind feels light and free, you may physically feel light as a feather. Likewise, if you feel heavy and slowed down after therapy, you may experience muscle tension. It’s the brain-body connection that makes personal counseling a full-body affair. As mentioned above, physical activity can be beneficial. In addition to taking walks or exercising, after-therapy self-care activities that your therapist can introduce to you to nurture the mind and body include
- Yoga. Simple and advanced yoga techniques and poses can be effective stress reduction methods. The gentle movements and guided imagery can help usher in a state of mindfulness and peace and improve your physical capability in ways that relax and rejuvenate you.
- Deep breathing. Practicing diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing) in a comfortable place can help you feel grounded and calm. It helps reduce your blood pressure, improve muscle function, and prevent strain. Increasing your lung efficiency by breathing this way can help you if you experience anxiety, stress, or any condition or situation that impacts your breathing.
When You Feel Like You Can’t Handle Anything Else
It can be helpful not to schedule therapy sessions before school, work, or other essential tasks that require your attention. This is suggested because whether you feel knocked down or uplifted by a personal counseling session, your mind may stay in the therapy room even after you and your body leave. If your mind remains occupied, try grounding yourself to the present moment by after-therapy self-care methods like:
- Journaling. Putting pen to paper can be therapeutic when you need to release negative thoughts and record positive ones. You can find insights you never noticed and be aware of things to share with your therapist when you write without censoring yourself. Don’t run from your thoughts. Don’t try fighting them, either. Jot them down and hold yourself with compassion.
- Practicing mindfulness. Usually implemented with yoga and diaphragmatic breathing, mindfulness, too, can calm your mind and nervous system. Pausing to practice mindfulness is an after-therapy self-care technique that can work at home or in any private or public quiet setting. When troubling thoughts arise, allow them to. Let them come and go judgment-free. Inhale deeply and envision negative thoughts and bad energy leaving you when you exhale. Doing so allows you to feel more peace and less anxiety and stress.
Discussing Your Experience With Your Therapist
The best after-therapy self-care methods allow you to be gentle with yourself. To pay attention to your mind and body’s needs. And to give your psyche the time needed to integrate things you explore with your therapist in personal counseling. Be patient and give yourself the chance and time to learn, self-reflect, and learn. Allow your therapist to learn more about you, too. Tell them about your after-therapy feelings. They should know how you feel during and after therapy. They should know how you cope after sessions, especially if your emotions and coping mechanisms influence your decision to continue treatment.
At Pure Health Center, our licensed therapists can suggest after-therapy self-care techniques, tools, or resources that help you healthily manage distress. When you decide the time is right, reach out to us to discuss your views and feelings about therapy and collaborate with compassionate therapists to determine what can help you feel safer and more validated during and after personal counseling sessions.