Therapy: Not All on the Couch Anymore

gloved hands using smartphoneI love sleep. I love even the very idea of sleep, because the actual process has always played a bit of a cat-and-mouse game with me. If after dinner I became even the slightest bit drowsy, I could feel the excitement beginning to grow. “Yes! Eight hours. I could actually attain the ultimate pinnacle of eight hours of sleep!” But it never happened for me. It would tease me with promises of relaxation and awakening to that rested feeling they talk about on all the commercials, only to leave me staring at the alarm clock at 3 a.m., and then 4 a.m. and, well, you get the idea.

After a few weeks of deliberation, I began to seriously contemplate seeing a therapist for the first time in my life. While I have lived a basically happy existence, with no traumatic childhood experiences or signs of anxiety or depression, I just can’t sleep. After what had seemed to be a trial-and-error type of experimentation from my primary care physician, utilizing various forms of medications not specifically designed for insomnia, this coveted idea of sleeping through an entire night still continued to elude me. However, it was time to stop messing around. It was time to try to find a professional who could help me sleep more than four hours a night.

You may have noticed that the stigma that once seemed to be attached to therapy is just about completely gone, almost as if someone has waved a magic wand. There’s no need to sneak around anymore, saying you have to go to the dentist when, in fact, you are rushing to your weekly therapy appointment. Times have changed, and people are embracing the opportunity to lead happy, fulfilled lives. Some people are even looking forward to their therapy sessions these days. They might even brag about their therapists. There’s just something liberating when what’s said on the couch stays on the couch.

People have become much more open about their therapy regimens. Therefore, finding a good therapist doesn’t require a lot of research. A lunch date with three or four good friends or an online search could easily pull up a few trusted names in the field. An appointment was made, and I began to lie awake at night thinking about the possibility of actually sleeping soon. While not at all conducive to actual rest, the prospect itself was undeniably invigorating.

When the day of my appointment arrived, I was eager to arrive early, ready to take this first step toward improving my quality of life. My therapist was a fascinating woman, and she had the ability to evoke immediate answers to questions that I had never even considered previously. Maybe this therapy business could work, after all.

But what happened after I went home? Would I just wait for my next appointment, hoping that I could stay on track? I wanted this to work. I desperately needed to sleep.

And then it happened. Something unexpected occurred that none of my friends or coworkers had told me about. That’s because it was new. In fact, I would be one of her first clients to participate in this new form of “therapy homework.” And it got even better: There was an app for it.

By the time I walked out the door, this new software was already downloaded to my smartphone, and I was ready to go. I was always the type of kid who finished my book report a week early, and I was really curious to see what type of assignments my therapist had set up for me.

The first one came almost immediately. It was in the form of a daily journal. It made use of a very simple format, allowing me to take note of any events that happened during that day that could be of note. This seemed like a really simple notion. Plus, I realized how this could be extremely helpful, especially when attempting to discover whether my insomnia might be triggered by particular types of interactions and activities.

As the week went on, I received more homework assignments, all popping up on my smartphone, ready for engagement when I had a moment or two. There were other surveys and worksheets, as well as a questionnaire that allowed for answers through a sliding scale that included questions regarding the quality of my sleep. After finally seeing in writing how often this condition plagued me, I really wish I had sought therapy sooner.

And things didn’t stop there. I also received information sheets, some explaining different therapy techniques that might be viable options for my insomnia, as well as helpful infographics on thinking processes and the suppression of thoughts.

As my next appointment approached, I felt prepared—almost the way you might after studying really hard for an exam. My therapist had already received all of my assignments, and she was ready to go over all of the information, already formulating a plan for my treatment.

This was not at all what I had expected, and I shared my experience with the friend who had suggested that I see this particular therapist. He had not yet been assigned this new technology, and he was a bit skeptical. He raised a few good points. He didn’t like the idea of feeling dependent upon this app to provide important information to his therapist. What if you left your phone at home? What if you just don’t like using apps? He also brought up another question: was therapy really ready for this type of technology?

I loved it.

In the past, when someone left the therapy office, I think they often had that feeling of being finished for the week. It was all over until the next appointment. Sure, what transpired during the session would come to mind from time to time, but a lot of people don’t give their therapy sessions a second thought until they are right back in the office the following week, frantically scrambling for the right answers to the questions that would undoubtedly be asked.

This is probably a bit counterproductive, especially on the road back to emotional well-being. However, this is a problem that thousands of people definitely face when it comes to their treatment. Even after what might be considered a highly productive therapy session, experiencing somewhat of a “disconnect” is fairly common.

Everyone has the best of intentions, but when face-to-face with people who might just know how to push their buttons, or when dropped into an extremely stressful situation at the office, those well-laid intentions don’t always go a long way. There’s always that feeling of, “I was totally on track until I received that phone call, or before that truck cut me off in traffic.” Documenting these situations might really help when that next therapy appointment comes around.

Months later, even more features have been added to this already groundbreaking technology. I can now even receive appointment reminders, making sure I don’t forget my session, and I’ve been told that soon I will even be able to schedule my appointments right from this handy app. I am all for anything that will save me this kind of time.

You may be wondering if I am finally sleeping. Gone are the days of what I used to call my “four-hour night naps,” but I still haven’t quite been able to achieve that restful eight hours of sleep everyone seems to brag about. But will I take six hours over four? I don’t even need therapy to uncover the answer to that question.

angela ash share your story authorAngela Ash is the Content Manager for Mentegram, a mental healthcare technology company that has helped over 200 therapists provide better care to more than 1,500 of their patients. Angela is also a professional article writer and editor, specializing in online content and authoritative blog topics. Her additional therapy-related content may be found at mentegram.com/blog.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • gladys

    gladys

    December 19th, 2016 at 7:56 AM

    I think that even the concept of having to do homework in therapy is a pretty foreign concept to most people.

  • Angela Ash

    Angela Ash

    December 19th, 2016 at 1:33 PM

    You know, Gladys, I think that’s very true. It may not be something that works well for every patient or for every therapist. It may also just take some “getting used to”. However, I feel that it can really help keep people who have a difficult time keeping on track between appointments.

    Plus, anyone who has ever gone to therapy has probably experienced that moment of walking into the office and having absolutely no idea what to talk about when pointed to do so. I think that this technology really is best for those times when we find ourselves in situations where an event occurs or a problem arises that we need to bring up in therapy five days from now. It can serve as a reminder to both the patient and the therapist to address that emotional or stressful situation at the next appointment.

  • Asa

    Asa

    December 20th, 2016 at 8:30 AM

    I like talking to people so going to a therapist would be pretty cool to me I think. I don’t think that I would enjoy it nearly as much if I did it online. But that’s just me

  • Angela Ash

    Angela Ash

    December 20th, 2016 at 11:03 AM

    Asa, I can definitely see that. But you still actually go to your appointments with your therapist. This is just basically a tool that many therapists are starting to utilize that keeps you on track in between your face-to-face appointments with a few little surveys on how you’re feeling that particular day or a sliding scale questionnaire to monitor your emotions. It’s pretty cool! I really love technology and using apps, along with having the traditional appointments with a therapist, so it worked really well for me.

  • Asa

    Asa

    December 21st, 2016 at 10:08 AM

    now that makes it all better and truthfully probably a lot more relatable for many people since this is how so much of our interaction is done today.

  • Angela

    Angela

    December 21st, 2016 at 11:49 AM

    I agree for sure! Plus, I think the whole process is really great for “easing” someone into therapy who has never been involved in it before.

  • Maya

    Maya

    December 22nd, 2016 at 6:23 AM

    It adds an extra layer of cooperation as well as commitment to the process of growing and becoming the person you really are. It is that encouragement to do more on our own that we might not otherwise have in a more traditional therapy setting. Plus it gives you time to work through some things on your own without using a therapist as a crutch.

  • Angela

    Angela

    December 22nd, 2016 at 8:20 PM

    Exactly, Maya! Those are my thoughts exactly. And if you’ve ever found yourself filling out one of those Facebook surveys to find out which Disney princess you’re the most like, or what your favorite color says about your personality, you may have discovered a thing or two about yourself. So, imagine how a much more centered, therapeutic approach could work with a similar concept, but all the while providing answers that can assist with your therapy. I love it!

  • Steve

    Steve

    December 22nd, 2016 at 8:24 PM

    My therapist doesn’t offer this. So you think this is something that a lot of therapists will start offering their patients?

  • Angela

    Angela

    December 23rd, 2016 at 1:31 PM

    Steve, a lot of therapists are beginning to offer this type of technology. In the upcoming year, I would hope that most therapists at least test the technology to see how it can benefit their patients, as well as help their office run a bit smoother. There are several companies that therapists can work with. My particular experience has been with the Mentegram app.

  • cely

    cely

    December 23rd, 2016 at 8:35 AM

    Do you ever wonder what some of the founders of these different schools of thoughts would think about how far the science has progressed in this relatively short period of time?

  • Angela

    Angela

    December 23rd, 2016 at 1:37 PM

    Cely, that’s a great thought! I’m sure a few might not be prone for change, but I would gather that most would be all for anything that could help keep patients better engaged in their treatment. I think that’s often one of the main reasons that people seem to “fall out” of their therapy routine. If they become disinterested, or feel as if they aren’t being provided with the support that they need to succeed, they may find it way easier to skip that appointment on Friday after work.

  • Blakely

    Blakely

    December 24th, 2016 at 6:27 AM

    So if you do not have access to a computer or a smart phone you could still receive the same kind of benefits from journaling or just taking a little bit of time to document the things going on in your world and around you. I think that any time you can write things down then they stick with you a little bit more, and when you see them written out in black and white then sometimes it can be easier to make the connections between the things that actually bring you joy and those things that can bring a little more sadness to your life.
    In my experience it is when you can begin to make some of those connections then it becomes easier to make changes to help you feel better.

  • Bessie

    Bessie

    December 26th, 2016 at 10:53 AM

    quite informative, thanks!

  • Angela A

    Angela A

    December 26th, 2016 at 6:55 PM

    Blakely, that is the truth! When I think back to being in elementary school, I remember that we always had to write things over and over again. Looking back now, I can see how doing that really helped those lessons stick in my mind. It makes sense that would apply to anything in life, including therapy.

  • Angela A

    Angela A

    December 26th, 2016 at 6:55 PM

    You’re very welcome, Bessie!

  • Taylor P

    Taylor P

    December 27th, 2016 at 2:02 PM

    It’s about time! Every science has to grow and change with the times and I think that especially this field is one where that is even truer.

  • Angela

    Angela

    December 27th, 2016 at 5:21 PM

    Definitely, Taylor! The more we learn, the more we can grow. I truly believe that technology can really change the way we use therapy, making it even easier to keep track of our thoughts, feelings and emotions.

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