It used to be all about lying down on a couch in an analyst's office, but no more. With these fresh approaches to mental health gaining traction, your weekly session may be headed for an overhaul. By Jane Bianchi, REDBOOK.
Sitting face-to-face in a room with an analyst can be intimidating, which is why Shannon Romig, a counselor in Castle Pines, CO, became a walking therapist. When you're strolling outside, you don't have to make eye contact, and you can engage all five senses. "You can stop to touch the trees, smell the flowers, and listen to the babbling creek," says Romig. "I take many clients on sunrise walks to help them forget the past and focus on the promise of a new day. Moving forward physically helps you move forward emotionally." Many studies have found that exercise helps ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. "Plus, the rhythm-left foot, right foot-helps people think. Clients say, 'It's as if my feelings were on the surface. I didn't have to dig,'" adds Romig.
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What if the expert who has the most experience treating your condition and with whom you click lives thousands of miles away? Or if you move, making it impossible to see your therapist in person before you're ready to give up your regular appointment? Online video therapy can connect you two, but before it becomes mainstream it needs to leap two hurdles. The first: For a therapist to live in one state and treat you in another, he or she needs to be licensed in both states. The second: Only 20 states treat reimbursement for online therapy as kindly as they do face-to-face sessions.
When Isaac Farin, a marriage and family therapist in North Miami Beach, FL, started skateboarding on a longboard (a long skateboard with wide wheels) in parks for fun, he found it to be an incredible outlet for stress relief. So he decided to start treating some patients by teaching them how to longboard and riding beside them. During or after the ride, he asks each client about what he or she saw, smelled, heard, and felt in order to get them to focus on the present. There's also a repetitive rhythm to the activity that puts you in what Farin calls a "flow" or "stoked" state of mind. "You enter a kind of trance," he says. The speed of the activity also provides an adrenaline rush that gets endorphins pumping throughout the body.
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We order dinner, check our Facebook pages, and keep our calendars on our smartphones, so it's only fitting that the newest therapy comes via the devices. A growing number of free and low-cost apps can help you address mental health issues. Take, for example, the iStress app ($0.99), which allows you to rate your feelings and thoughts daily or weekly and then graph them to track how you're handling your anxiety. You can also click on a phrase that's on your mind, such as "I always fail," and the app will help you reframe the thought more positively. MyInstantCoach (free) allows you to select one of four categories (relationships, finances, career, and well-being) and then choose a problem that applies to you. For instance, in the career category you could click on, "I lost my job. Now what?" The app responds with a list of actions steps, such as "Create a list of possible contacts to reach out to," which may help you snap back to reality.
If you often feel bogged down by the past or excessively anxious about the future, you might benefit from this analysis of how you think about time-and what it says about your overall mental health. Start by taking a quick quiz, the results of which will be your personal "time perspective." Then compare your scores to the ideal time perspective-one where you think very positively about your past and work toward future goals, but not so much that you miss out on enjoying the present. Thinking very negatively of the past may indicate depression, while over-focusing on future goals may point toward anxiety. Depending on your scores, you can work with a psychologist to get your time perspective closer to the ideal.
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Tapping (a.k.a. Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT) is getting a lot of buzz lately, thanks to the new book The Tapping Solution. As wacky as it may sound, pushing on certain areas of the body, as is done in acupressure and acupuncture, can provide tension relief by calming the nervous system. "Try it the moment you feel anxiety, or tap in a preventive way each morning-think of it as energy hygiene," says Brad Yates, a tapping therapist in Sacramento, CA. The idea is to rate the severity of your problem from 1 to 10, do a round of tapping, and then rate it again. Odds are, tapping will lower the rating. You can try a tapping session with a therapist, who will talk through your problems and repeat positive mantras while you tap, or on your own by following this video.
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