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What to Do in Between Therapy Sessions

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min read

You may have heard the phrase “You get out of therapy what you put into therapy.”

Everyone’s experiences in therapy are different, but what is true for all is that therapy takes effort and focus in order for you to succeed. The work you put into therapy will ultimately help you reach the goals you set to achieve, but it doesn’t just happen during sessions. Working on things in between therapy sessions is just as important to your progress.

Here’s what you can do in between sessions to continue to make strides in therapy. 

Complete therapy assignments

Your therapist may give you “homework” or assignments to focus on outside of therapy. These assignments may challenge you to put what you’ve learned during sessions into practice in real life. The activities your therapist may assign to you will depend on your circumstances, but can include breathing exercises or other self-care activities. Or, they can be focused on rehearsing new skills, practicing coping strategies, and reframing negative self-beliefs.

It may seem daunting to have to complete tasks outside of therapy, but taking the time to do so is well worth it. Research suggests that homework assigned with therapy enhances its effectiveness. What’s more? People who consistently complete homework assignments tend to experience better results from therapy.

Think about your most recent session

It can sometimes feel like there’s a lot to fit into a single therapy session, so it can be helpful to think about what you covered with your therapist in your last session to make the most of your next session. What did you learn from your previous discussion with your therapist? Did you have any revelations that you want to keep in mind and work on moving forward, such as reducing or avoiding certain thought or behavior patterns? Do you have any questions you’d like to ask your therapist in your next session regarding something you discussed in your previous session? 

As you think about and work on things outside of therapy sessions, questions may pop up. Consider writing them down so you can remember to ask them in your next session. 

Taking the time to think about your sessions and what you discussed with your therapist can help you identify actionable things to work on and keep your therapy goals top of mind. 

Try therapeutic journaling

There are many benefits to journaling, regardless of whether you’re in therapy or not. Journaling can help you self-reflect, identify negative thoughts and behaviors, explore and express your thoughts and feelings, and more. Your therapist may ask you to write down your thoughts and feelings each day as a therapy assignment to work on outside of sessions. Even if journaling isn’t assigned by your therapist, it’s something you can do in between sessions to help you make progress toward your therapy goals.  

If you’re not sure how to get started with journaling, consider using these prompts

Focus on healthy habits 

The mind and body are very much connected, so the more healthy habits you incorporate into your life, the more likely you are to feel better — mentally and physically. Healthy habits can include practicing self-care, eating well, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep. 

Self-care means taking time to care for your whole self — your body, relationships, emotions, and spirit. It goes beyond a spa day or having a cup of your favorite tea — self-care involves doing the things you do each day, and making improvements to them to create healthier habits. To get started practicing self-care, consider these tips from SonderMind therapists. 

Eating well is also important to improving your overall health. But what exactly is “eating well”? A healthy diet emphasizes eating nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, and avoiding processed foods as much as possible. 

Eating a nutritious diet is not only beneficial to your physical health, but also your mental health. Studies have shown that diets high in fruits, vegetables, unprocessed grains, and seafood lower the risk of depression by 25% to 35% compared to diets high in processed and refined foods and sugars. Moreover, people experiencing mental health conditions should aim for a diet low in refined sugar, as a diet high in refined sugar has been associated with worsening symptoms.

Exercising regularly — at least 20 minutes a day — can also do wonders for your physical and mental health. Exercise can reduce anxiety and depression and improve mood, self-esteem, and cognitive function. Getting plenty of sleep is important, too. When you don’t get enough sleep, your psychological state and mental health can be negatively affected. Exercising often, eating well, and monitoring your caffeine consumption can help you get quality sleep. 

However, if you find that you are consistently having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, you may have a sleep disorder. Sleep problems and/or disorders are particularly common if you have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). So if you’re having trouble getting enough quality sleep, talk to your therapist. They can offer tips and advice to improve your sleep, and refer you to a medical professional for additional treatment for sleep problems if needed. 

Be proud of your progress

Change doesn’t happen overnight. But it’s important to acknowledge and be proud of the progress you make in therapy, even if change isn’t happening as quickly as you’d like it to. 

Remember that therapy is a journey, and the more you do in between sessions to work toward your goals, the closer you’ll get to feeling better and achieving what you’ve set out for with therapy.

Last Updated:
Published:
First Published:
September 9, 2022

Sources: 

Askren, M., Berman, M., Deldin, P., Jonides, J., Kross, E., & Krpan. K. (2013, June 18). An everyday activity as a treatment for depression: The benefits of expressive writing for people diagnosed with major depressive disorder. National Library of Medicine.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23790815/

Farrugia, C. (2021, May 13). NAMI-NYS The power of journaling workshop [Webinar]. National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTJykubRnDQ  

Harvard Health Publishing. (2021, August 17). Sleep deprivation can affect your mental health. Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health

Minden, J. (2017, April 16). How much does homework matter in therapy? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cbt-and-me/201704/how-much-does-homework-matter-in-therapy

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2015). Mental health: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

https://www.nami.org/getattachment/Extranet/NAMI-State-Organization-and-NAMI-Affiliate-Leaders/Awareness/AKA/Mental-Health-Fact-Sheets/Maintaining-a-Healthy-Lifestyle.pdf

Selhub, E. (2020, March 26). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

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