27 Jul

"If the only tool you have is a hammer, you'll treat everything like a nail" 

The same concept applies to coping strategies in mental health.

What works in one situation may not be effective in another situation.

I was speaking with a client yesterday and we were discussing his abandonment of journaling and mindfulness after little more than a week. This is a conversation I've had with a lot of my clients over the years, and they all have the same reason; I felt better, so I stopped. They felt as though they didn't need it anymore.

They recognised there was an area in their life that was not functioning as well as they would like -feeling angry, anxious, short-tempered, stressed- and they decided to come to therapy. Together we identified a number of strategies that that are beneficial for the reduction in said areas, and they set about implementing them in daily life.

After a week or two the clients returned for a follow up session and reported their experience. Typically speaking, they all had a similar experience. With consistent practice, increased awareness, and a little bit of patience they each reported significant improvement in their individual areas of focus, and a positive ripple effect in other areas of life, like relationships, parenting, work, and friendships.

After a couple of sessions post-realisation, we decided that their improvements warranted a long break between sessions and the clients felt confident in their ability to maintain the benefits of their new routine. 

Several weeks -and for some, months- passed, and then I would receive a request for another session. During this check in, they each spoke about how "Things were going really well for a while, and then for some reason, everything started to return to the way things were before."

Wanna take a guess as to the reason why? They stopped making the time for self-reflection and care. They met their goal of 'feel better and reduce stress' and so the activities that helped them achieve those outcomes were no longer seen to be necessary. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." 

Prevention. Restoration. Maintenance.

The way we frame our thoughts and behaviours will influence the ways in which we implement them. If you frame journaling and meditation as merely a means by which you can restore your mental health, you're likely to stop them when you feel restored. If you view them as a means of restoration, maintenance, and prevention you will use them in a wider variety of situations, because you have framed them as having multiple functions.

Hammers & Carpenters

You can either use the hammer or you call a carpenter.

Counselling starts when you notice that the tools you have aren't cutting it. Think of it this way, your counsellor is the plumber you call when the taps are leaking.

Using the hammer is the DIY - you can use the tools that you have at home to do touch-ups and maintenance on minor issues. For the situations where the damage is severe enough, or you don't have the necessary tools, you call in a professional. 


Self talk
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