Therapy was a necessary component in the healing process for me. The layers of my traumatic life events seemed like a jumbled maze too difficult to sift through. When I thought about getting to the root of my problem, I felt like you’d imagine a person would feel opening the front door of a serious hoarder’s house for the first time.
Too much. Too difficult. Overwhelming.
Those thoughts kept me from seeking help for decades. When I finally did receive therapy, it was part of the recovery process at the addiction rehab facility I checked myself into after a decade of alcoholism and opiate addiction drove me to toy with suicidal thoughts.
I know…it sounds dramatic, but that’s the way it happened for me. Now that I know what I do about the results of quality psychotherapy, I recommend it to anyone who is feeling stuck, depressed, anxious or unsure about life.
Trauma, left untreated, will not magically heal itself. It will slowly permeate everything in your life; the way you see things, the way you react to situations, and the level of passion and enthusiasm you have toward life. Finally, trauma will manifest in a variety of ways: eating disorders, addiction, unhealthy relationships, codependency, depression, nightmares, irrational phobias, impulsive behavior, and on and on.
Does Therapy Really Work?
For me, yes. I loved it. My therapist used exercises and assignments that revealed the way I thought about things, and, over time, my sessions allowed me to heal from the inside out.
Countless studies have shown that psychotherapeutic treatment works for others too. The effects have been measured in reduced symptoms of depression, relief from anxiety, improved social functioning and overall increase in a sense of well being.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General: "Mental disorders are treatable and the evidence for treatment being effective is overwhelming."
A study of 10,000 Kaiser patients revealed that patients who receive treatment tend to be healthier overall, spending less days in the hospital when they do require care and visit their primary physicians far less often.
Armed with this information, I want to also interject a huge exception.
I call it therapy without clarity.
When Therapy Won’t Be As Effective (Or Not at All)
If you are a person in very early recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism, a person who has just had a bout with binge eating or bulimia, or simply struggles with very poor nutritional and hydration habits, you will not receive the full effects of therapy.
Why? Because, mental clarity and the ability to bring your mind into focus during therapy is going to have a lot to do with positive outcomes.
If you’ve got zero ability to be present in the moment because you’re restless, impulsive, and dealing with high anxiety, I would encourage you to do the following five things for at least a week before therapy:
Fostering Mental Clarity and Stability Before Therapy
Sleep: Part of self care and doing “what’s good for us” involves healthy sleep patterns. A severe lack of sleep can actually bring on hallucinations and psychosis.
I get it, sometimes sleep is difficult. Over the counter melatonin (found in the vitamin and supplement aisle) can help with this. Melatonin is naturally found in our bodies and is produced to bring on sleep. At least three days of solid sleep before starting therapy will help with mental clarity.
Ban Sugar, Bread and Processed Foods: Sugar, bread products and packaged, processed foods actually creates brain fog, all in different ways. Sugar sets us up for relapse because it produces a high and then, of course a crash. Bread products lull us into a foggy, lethargic state and processed foods just plain wreak havoc. Our body actually produces toxins trying to digest processed foods because it doesn’t know what to do with half of the ingredients!
I’ll go in depth in another article about food helping or hurting our recovery, but to ensure an alert, mentally clear session, cut out or cut down on these three foods.
Hydrate: By the time you’re thirsty, you're actually already experiencing the onset of dehydration, and a lack of fluids will contribute to brain fog. Want to go one step further with your water intake? Add lemon and fresh ginger to your water and you’ll help create a healthy place in your gastrointestinal tract for dopamine and serotonin production.
Yep, you read that right! A substantial amount of dopamine and serotonin production happen in our gut, so start slicing those lemons! These neurotransmitters will help you be in the best frame of mind and receptive to therapy.
Aminos are Brain Food: Amino acids are essential to brain health and feelings of overall well being. Aminos are the “food” that helps your brain build neurotransmitters, like, dopamine and serotonin. I’m not a big fan of taking supplements. I don’t know why. I would just rather eat the food rich in the nutrients I need than take something, but Synaptamine is a different story.
First introduced to me when I was a receiving addiction treatment, it was (and still is) a definite clarity and mood booster. Synaptamine is formulated with amino acids and other all-natural ingredients that are proven to be beneficial in the treatment of “Reward Deficiency Syndrome”(RDS). Synaptamine has been patented in both the US and the EU for providing the only all natural, evidence-based dopamine agonist available.
Research has shown that individuals with dopamine deficits are at increased risk for drug and alcohol abuse and addiction, depression, stress related disorders, ADHD, compulsive gambling, and other high-risk behaviors.
Exercise: I don’t care what kind of exercise you do, just get your heart rate up, and make it a goal to sweat! Exercise works like a great big toxic cleanse for our bodies as well as our brain.
Neuroscience has proven that regular exercise, whether it’s taking a brisk walk or weight lifting, increases serotonin output in the brain. Personally, I hate cardio, but I’m doing it more often because I always feel great afterward. My thing is weight lifting, which makes sense, because weight training also releases endorphins in the brain, without all that sweating and endurance involved. Yep, I still look for an easier way to get where I’m going sometimes.
So, get these five things in place. It seems like a lot, but trust me, I’m the queen of “don’t want to” and “not right now” but I’ve developed these healthy habits in my own life, and they help me to be the best version of myself.
Commit to do all of them for one week, and I guarantee you’ll get so much more out of therapy!
We only live one life. It’s important to nurture ourselves, mind, body and spirit.