Important Life Skills Learned in Therapy
Therapy is often touted as a helpful service for people struggling with something in their everyday lives, relationships, or career. Whether you’ve experienced a particularly traumatic event, or your mental health is not at its best, loved ones might recommend that you reach out to a trained therapist to receive the help you need.
While some people just find it helpful to have a trained professional validate their feelings, there’s more to the average therapy session than meets the eye. There’s potential for you to learn important life skills that will help you through both your current troubling situation and others in the future.
Whether you start exploring rapid eye movement therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or another therapy type, there’s potential for you to learn emotional self-regulation skills that help you through many troubling or traumatic experiences in your life.
Emotional self-regulation describes the average person’s ability to manage challenging emotions like anger, stress, and sadness without those emotions having control over their actions and minds. When you have this skill, you might sharpen your skills in other related areas, such as:
- Compassionate decision-making
- Seeking help
While not having emotional self-regulation skills might not seem important, it can be if you end up in particularly charged emotional situations. When we don’t know how to manage our emotions, we can do or say things that impact our relationships with the most important people in our lives.
Fortunately, with the help of a therapist, anyone can work on their emotional self-regulation. Most therapists recommend creating space for your emotions to slow down the moment between when an emotion is triggered and when and how you respond to it.
They also encourage their patients to tune in to their feeling and notice the associated sensations. For example, you might feel tension in your neck and your heart racing when you’re angry. After identifying an emotion, accepting it and practicing mindfulness to be aware of it in a non-judgmental way might put you on the path to better emotional self-regulation.
Self-awareness describes a person’s ability to look inside themselves to think about their behavior, how it makes them feel, and whether it aligns with their values and morals. Self-awareness is crucial to emotional intelligence, helping you understand and control your actions and emotions.
Not everyone has excellent self-awareness despite how important it can be for your professional and personal life. Fortunately, it’s something you can learn on your own or with the help of a therapist.
The first step involves understanding your strengths and weaknesses and how your personality’s weakest and strongest parts compare to the people around you. Upon identifying your strengths and weaknesses, you can reflect on your thought patterns, decision-making, and how you communicate and connect with others. Consider writing these down in a journal to help you gain awareness of who you are and your place in your community.
While developing self-awareness skills is important for your own needs, it can also be quite a selfless act. The more self-aware you are, the more conscious you can be about how your actions and words influence the people around you.
Boundaries are limits we set for the people in our lives. However, they can differ depending on the situations and people we interact with. For example, the boundaries we set for our family members and friends might differ dramatically from those we put in place for spouses or strangers.
Setting boundaries requires self-awareness, something you can learn in a therapy setting with practice. When you’re self-aware, you understand what you are and aren’t comfortable with and can confidently and clearly communicate your needs to the people trying to cross your boundaries. Setting boundaries takes practice, but the more often you take these three steps below, the easier it may be for the people in your life to learn and abide by them.
Communicate your boundary requirements as clearly and as confidently as possible
Describe what you would like or prefer rather than what you don’t like
Accept any uncomfortable feelings that arise from setting boundaries, such as remorse, guilt, or shame. These are particularly common feelings if you describe yourself as a ‘people pleaser.’
The simple act of going to therapy means you can be motivated when you need to be. However, some people require a helping hand to refine this skill and enjoy the many associated benefits. Motivation can be important for setting goals, growing interests, boosting engagement, and making plans. Without it, there’s a risk the average person can’t reach their full potential.
Whether you’re struggling to get motivated to perform simple tasks like getting out of bed or harder tasks like achieving career goals, attending therapy sessions might help. In therapy, you can learn how to get motivated and stay motivated to achieve your goals and take care of your everyday needs. Generally, four things influence how motivated you are and can be:
- How badly you want to achieve something
- What you will gain
- What’s at stake if you don’t reach your goal
- The expectations you set for yourself
When you’re struggling to find motivation for something important in your life, consider those four influential factors above. It’s also important to understand why motivation is so important. At a minimum, being motivated means you can solve problems, change old habits, and cope with any opportunities or challenges you face. Fortunately, most trained therapists can provide valuable advice when you’re struggling with everyday motivation. They might recommend:
- Using positive self-talk
- Establishing a goal as part of a routine
- Using reminder apps
- Practicing mindfulness meditation to stay focused
- Rewarding yourself after achieving a goal or taking a step toward it
Once you’ve found the motivation you need to excel professionally and personally, finding ways to stay motivated is important. This can involve:
- Reviewing and updating your goals
- Setting new goals as you achieve the old ones
- Finding mentors to help
- Keeping up the momentum to make motivation a healthy habit
While therapy can be helpful for people struggling with their mental health or going through a traumatic life event, it can also be a valuable way to obtain new skills. If you’re having trouble with motivation, setting boundaries, regulating your emotions, or being self-aware, you might learn these valuable skills in therapy sessions and enjoy the positive impacts they have on your life.