Therapy is a journey with multiple paths and phases, and it won’t be the same exact process for everyone. Some people may spend a short time in therapy to achieve a specific outcome, while others see a therapist long-term for ongoing support. You may go through several therapists or stay with just one. There’s no right or wrong way to do therapy as long as it’s helping you—your therapy experience should be tailored to your mental health needs.
Often there will be bumps along the way after you start therapy. For most people, feeling better is a process that takes time, so it’s important to celebrate every step of your mental health journey. Just going to therapy in the first place and realizing the importance of mental health is a reason to celebrate! Learn about how celebrating every small step in therapy builds positive momentum, and how to set yourself up for success.
The Importance of Small Steps in Therapy
It’s important to remember that small steps are just as vital as big breakthroughs in improving your mental health. Trying to resolve everything you’re dealing with all at once isn’t feasible and sets you up to be discouraged. Celebrating these small wins is a way to track your progress and move toward larger goals. Each time you celebrate a small step in therapy, it prompts you to feel good about yourself. That feel-good energy can help improve your mood and give you motivation to work towards your overall goals.
“Long-term burnout can be avoided by consistently rewarding yourself for small victories and celebrating them. Make time to reward yourself on a daily or weekly basis for the things you accomplish instead of stressing over a goal that is weeks or months away.”Bisma Anwar, LPC, LMHC
How to Celebrate Every Step
Celebrating small steps instead of only the big milestones may not come naturally, but giving yourself credit for putting in the effort on your mental health can motivate you to keep going and make the process more enjoyable.
Some ways you can celebrate each step in your therapy journey are:
- Track your progress: If you don’t know where you started in your mental health journey, it’s difficult to tell how far you’ve come. Record how you felt and what you were dealing with when you started therapy and continue to track how you feel. You can better remember which of those small (or large) milestones to celebrate with a record of your progress. If you receive therapy through Talkspace and message with your therapist, occasionally read through past messages to observe the progress you’ve made.
- Make a gratitude journal: Create a gratitude journal or just a list of things you’re grateful for. Reflecting on things you’re grateful for each day can help you put every step in your mental health journey into context.
- Commemorate your small step: Buy yourself a treat, practice some self-care, or do something you enjoy with intention.
- Celebrate with a friend: Talk with someone who knows about your mental health journey and throw a little celebration. Sharing your success with someone that supports you feels good! Combining a little social outing with a celebration can help you stick the success of that small step in your mind.
Therapy can be hard, don’t give up
Therapy isn’t a one-stop process; it typically takes multiple sessions over months or even years to resolve mental or emotional issues. It can feel frustrating when you experience setbacks with your mental health or are going through something stressful in your life and realize that therapy isn’t a quick fix.
Even though therapy can be difficult, it’s worth sticking with it. The hard work of opening up about what you’re going through will pay off in the end. It takes time to see results, but you’ll get the benefits of therapy if you trust the process.
How to Set Yourself Up for Success in Therapy
So, you know the importance of celebrating small victories now and how to do it, but what are some other ways you can set yourself up for success in therapy?
Ways to set yourself up for therapy success include:
- Set goals for therapy: Set yourself up for success by creating some goals for your therapy sessions. You can create these yourself or work with your therapist to define ambitious but achievable objectives. Setting goals with your therapist can help you mark your progress and give you a concrete reason to celebrate when you reach them.
“When you first start working on your mental health, setting goals can help you see what’s possible, motivate you, and identify specific areas to focus on. Setting a goal is a great way to get started on figuring out what works best for you.”Bisma Anwar, LPC, LMHC
- Take time to celebrate your progress: Try not to push yourself too hard. Your mental health journey is your own. No one else can tell you at what pace you should be going. However, don’t be too tough on yourself. Make sure to take time to celebrate your progress and simply the action of trying to get help. Take time to relax and reflect on your mental health.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself: Don’t hold yourself to super strict guidelines or goals that aren’t realistic. Your therapist can help you manage your expectations and figure out what progress looks like.
- Be open with your therapist: Opening up is hard, but that’s what therapy is for. You can make the most meaningful change when you’re truly open with the person whose role is to help you.
Often people struggle to open up about what they are thinking or feeling. This is one of the biggest obstacles to successful therapy sessions. Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings and what you’re going through. Your therapist won’t be able to help you if they don’t know what is going on.Bisma Anwar, LPC, LMHC
- Avoid comparisons: Comparing your own mental health to someone else’s is unfair and it doesn’t help anyone. Try to focus on your personal journey and celebrate every step you’ve made. Other people’s progress isn’t vital to your own.
This May during Mental Health Awareness Month, celebrate every step of your mental health journey, no matter how small.