Starting to see a therapist can be a daunting task, but it's so important to take care of your mental health as much as your physical health. And once you have taken the plunge to start therapy, you want to make sure you're getting the most out of every session.
Psychologists have revealed exactly what you can do to increase the chance of your therapy sessions actually making a difference. Grant Brenner M.D. FAPA, a psychiatrist and expert on mental health and self-care, explained on Psychology Today that bringing self-compassion to your counselling sessions is crucial for getting the best outcome when seeing a therapist.
Research has revealed that, whilst taking part in therapy often increases your self-compassion anyway, "the greater the increase in self-compassion over the course of treatment, the better the outcome."
The study showed that people who had higher rates of self-compassion when starting therapy didn't see much increase in the effectiveness of their therapy. However, people who started with a lower level of self-compassion saw a greater increase in the effectiveness of their therapy during the course of their treatment - and this is thought to be because their self-compassion also increased.
How does self-compassion increase the effectiveness of therapy?
Psychologists believe that having core issues with self-care and self-regard makes achieving positive changes much harder. Psychology Today reports that self-compassion can prevent self-criticism, ease mental illness symptoms, reduce distress and even retrain your brain to think in healthier and more secure ways about yourself - all of which make your therapy more effective.
Self-compassion is also correlated with overall psychological, emotional and cognitive well-being, as well as good self-esteem.
As well as improving your mental health, self-compassion is also associated with reducing symptoms of physical illnesses.
What is self-compassion?
The experts sum self-compassion up as a combination of three things: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
Self-kindness means treating yourself with understanding, rather than constant criticisism. Common humanity means that you avoid isolating yourself, and recognise that other people have the same imperfections that you do. Mindfulness means that you avoid dwelling on problems too much.
How can you improve your self-compassion?
Workshops can help you to develop qualities that are important for self-compassion, like kindness, gratitude, forgiveness and acceptance.
Meanwhile, compassion-focussed therapy (or CFT) can be used to treat long-term problems with compassion.
Read the full report over on Psychology Today.