Depending on what you discuss with your therapist, the end of a therapy session can trigger emotions like sadness or exhaustion.
"It's common and normal for people to feel tired or depleted after therapy," says Amy Kaplan, a licensed clinical social worker at PlushCare, a virtual platform that offers mental health services throughout the U.S.
"It's kind of like being sore after you work out. Maybe the next day or two, your body feels a bit sore, you're a bit tired. Therapy's the same way. In therapy, you're doing hard work. You're talking about things you don't usually talk about."
That's why it's extremely important to decompress after an intense conversation during therapy, even for just five to 15 minutes, says Kaplan.
Here are some practices she recommends penciling into your calendar immediately after a therapy session, especially after difficult conversations.
Kaplan suggests one or more of these practices to help you unwind after therapy:
- Notice how you're feeling emotionally and physically
- Write about the emotions you're experiencing to discuss them at your next session
- Stretch your body
- Step outside for some fresh air
- Engage in breathing exercises
- Look at something beautiful that will bring you joy
- Eat a nourishing meal
If you decide to jot your thoughts down, you can consider these questions as prompts, says Kaplan:
- Do I have any new thoughts or feelings?
- Am I experiencing new body sensations?
- Is anything getting better? Is anything getting worse?
- Am I having new dreams that may be connected to what was discussed?
More advice on how to deal after a difficult therapy experience
It can be helpful to speak with your therapist about coping mechanisms to consider using after your session, Kaplan adds.
And you should avoid turning to alcohol, drugs and harmful activities that can intensify your emotions, she warns.
"If anything's really distressing to you, you're feeling unsafe [or] you're not feeling okay, please reach out to your therapist or call the 988 crisis line," Kaplan says.
Blocking off a full hour after your session can be very beneficial for you as you reflect, she adds.
But if you aren't able to do so, she strongly encourages not scheduling a work call less than five to 15 minutes after therapy sessions.
"Know that therapy is a process. Some sessions are harder than others, but just you being there is a win. Just be proud of yourself that you were there and you did it, regardless of how you feel after."