The psychology world loves testing. We will test, or at least try to test, everything. One Google search found a Psychology Today page with links to 105 different tests. The point of all these tests are for you to get to know yourself better in the hopes that this knowledge will help you find a romantic partner, point you in the direction of a career or help you understand why you do what you do.
There is one test you can self-administer right now. It is one question and takes about 15 seconds. The one question is this: How do you talk to yourself? This one question reveals how healthy or unhealthy you are mentally and also what you need to be working on in your life right now.
This question is one of the first things I ask a new client. I want to know are they harsh and critical? Overly anxious? Do they talk in a kind, loving way toward themselves? Are they fatalistic or hopeful?
We talk to ourselves all the time but often pay little attention because it seems so normal. If you would like to know your level of mental health take some time right now and pay attention to your inner dialogue. Turn off your phone, the radio, the TV, shut to door to your room or office and just listen to yourself. You might be surprised and even delighted at what you find. You also might realize how, at times, you can be your own worst enemy.
If you find that you are pessimistic or harsh begin to interrupt those thoughts with more honest, accurate and encouraging thoughts. I’m not going to pretend this is easy. We love our old patterns and bad habits but any movement towards health is progress even small steps. It all adds up to better mental health and more inner peace. Give it a try.
"People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway." - Mother Teresa
If you are not going to therapy to work on yourself and change your behavior then you are wasting your time and money. Why? Because the only thing you really have control over is yourself, your thoughts and your behavior.
Many people come to therapy to work through the issues caused by the people in their life who won't go to therapy. They end up leaving therapy early feeling disappointed and convinced therapy doesn’t work.
Therapy is one of the very few places in life where you are encouraged to be selfish. Make it all about you! Talk at length about yourself, your thoughts, your problems, your hopes and dreams without any fear of the information coming back later in an argument. I tell clients one of the biggest benefits of therapy is that you won't see around your Thanksgiving table. Your secrets are safe.
Therapy has a simple formula for success: The harder you work on yourself the better your life will become. If you set your intentions from the outset to do the work necessary to become a better person, you will most assuredly become a better person. This a natural universal law: whatever you focus on will prosper.
The only reason anyone should go to therapy is to understand themselves better so they can think deeply about their life. This constructive and illuminating process inevitably leads to peace with yourself and more healthy relationships. If you can do that you will become the master of your life and the captain of your fate. Therapy can help you achieve that.
Imagine you are struggling in your marriage or suffering from debilitating depression and anxiety. You do a Google search for a therapist in your area and comb through page after page of websites looking for that perfect match. You find someone and make the call but then quickly hang up. You find the courage to try again. It rings and rings but no answer so you leave a voicemail. Now begins the waiting game. You wait and wait and wait but no return call ever comes.
I hear some version of this story on a regular basis. As therapists we forget how nerve-racking it can be to call a total stranger and share the most intimate and personal details of your life.
Our job as therapists is to help people. This goes beyond just those that are giving us money. We are helpers working in a helping profession. We must do better. Even if your schedule is full you may know a therapist who is a good match for this client or a therapist who could use a few more clients on their roster. It is a win-win. In a time when mental health services are in high demand we should be over, not under, communicating.
I wouldn't be honest if I didn't confess that, on occasion, I have forgotten to return a voicemail or email. But I am recommitting to answering all correspondence with prospective clients within 24 hours or less. Will you join me?