When I end a session with a patient, I sometimes ask “how are you feeling now?” – especially when it is the patient’s first time ever in therapy. I also do this with patients who are new to my practice, and sometimes I do this with patients I have been seeing for multiple sessions. Predictably, even when the session went incredibly deep and was filled with raw, unprocessed, negative emotions, patients will generally report feeling “much better” or something to that effect.
Seems simple, right? Just come in and “chat” and you will feel “much better.” Well, sometimes it is that simple. What I mean is that sometimes just coming in and laying it all out on the table can be enough for people to experience relief. And I mean significant relief! I educate my patients that this relief often comes from feeling mentally freer, having more mental space, and not having to (figuratively) carry those thoughts or emotional baggage on their shoulders any longer. Some patients have even reported feeling physically lighter after unloading their innermost thoughts and emotions.
There is absolute truth to the idea that simply getting it out by talking can lead people to feel much better. Talking allows you to organize your thoughts, make sense of the ideas in your head, analyze your cognitions and emotions, and then make conclusions about whether you are being reasonable, over-reacting, actually care, whether the issue is important, etc.
For these reasons, going to therapy is analogous to going to the spa. People go to the spa to feel better. They go to treat themselves well, to feel refreshed, and to walk out feeling lighter. This is also why people go to therapy. Except, and this is by no means an attack on spa treatments, in therapy you are actually resolving your problems. Massages and facials are lovely, but the stress that led to your seeking a massage will still be there when you walk out of the spa. When you walk out of your psychologist’s office, you will ideally have come to some sort of resolution about the problem and perhaps a plan to move forward.
Many people go to the spa to relax, to de-stress. They spend their hard-earned money on very expensive spa treatments, only to walk out with the same problems remaining. Yet, time and again they will overlook the idea of spending money to go to therapy, which can cost the same or even less than a visit to the spa. Going to therapy is not a luxury, but an investment in your mental health, which is an investment in your overall well-being and your happiness; going to the spa is fun and relaxing, and is most certainly luxurious, but certainly not an investment in anything. Yes, therapy is much harder (mental) work and sometimes not enjoyable, but the short AND long-term benefits stretch far beyond the short-term difficulty.
So the next time you are thinking of scheduling a massage to get away from it all and de-stress, consider picking up the phone and scheduling an appointment with your therapist. The results at the therapy “spa” are significantly better and it’s money far better spent.