I 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.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 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.
© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
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.