Enhanced Coping Mechanisms and Resilience:
Therapy Enables Individuals to Explore Their Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviours and Gain Insight into Their Own Coping Mechanisms
Part 2 of a 10-part blog series on the Top 10 Benefits of Mental Health Therapy
In recent years, mental health therapy has become a widely accepted approach to managing and treating mental health concerns. Therapy provides individuals with the tools and strategies to enhance their coping mechanisms, improve their resilience, and ultimately, lead a healthier and more fulfilling life by increasing their confidence to navigate the twists and turns in the road.
In this article, we will explore the ways in which therapy can enhance coping mechanisms and resilience.
Understanding Coping Mechanisms
Coping mechanisms are the strategies and techniques (interventions) that individuals use to manage heightened emotional arousal caused by stress, anxiety, and other emotions that grow to feel too big. Coping mechanisms can be either healthy or unhealthy which is not actually defined by what the coping mechanism is but rather by how we use it.
To keep a coping mechanism in the “healthy” category it is used with an awareness that we are activating it because we are becoming emotionally aroused. It is used with intention to calm those big feelings and all the symptoms of overwhelm that come with it. It is specific as defined by us determining when we can stop. Finally, after using we come out feeling down-regulated and more able to manage without feeling overwhelmed emotionally. Healthy coping mechanisms include exercise, mindfulness, and seeking support from others.
Unhealthy coping mechanisms come to be when we are on autopilot, not aware we are activating them to calm the symptoms that can come with emotional overwhelm. We are not engaging in them with the intention to down-regulate but rather to escape, we are simply checking out or numbing out. We also are not aware of the time parameters that we can get lost in time in the coping mechanism. Finally, when we disengage from this type of coping mechanism, we are not emotionally down-regulated, and we find ourselves back in the emotional overwhelm quite quickly and back to engaging on autopilot with the unhealthy coping strategy.
Individuals who develop healthy coping mechanism strategies can be better equipped to handle stress and adversity, while those with unhealthy coping mechanisms are more vulnerable to mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety.
Coping skills are often seen to fall into five main categories:
- Physical Activity – walking, running, swimming, yoga, etc.
- Relaxation – bath, reading, stretching, progressive muscle relaxation, etc.
- Activating Our Senses – aromatherapy, heat/cool pack, a cup of tea, favourite pyjamas, eating a tasty treat, etc.
- Processing – writing (stories/poems/journal), a good chat with a friend, etc.
- Distraction – reading, a movie/tv, visit with a friend, cleaning/organizing, a mindful walk, etc.
*Notice how some of the strategies could easily be included in more than one category. The trick is to find a handful that works for you personally as they won’t all work for all of us.
How Therapy Enhances Coping Mechanisms
Therapy enables individuals to explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours and gain insight into their own coping mechanisms. Through therapy, individuals can identify when and where their coping mechanisms have become unhealthy and develop strategies to replace them with or return them to healthier ones.
Therapists use evidence-based techniques such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) to teach individuals healthy coping mechanisms. CBT focuses on changing negative thought patterns, while DBT focuses on regulating emotions and improving interpersonal relationships.
Therapy also provides individuals with a safe and supportive environment to practice and develop healthy coping mechanisms. This can help individuals feel more confident in their ability to manage stress and other overwhelming emotions.
The Benefits of Enhanced Coping Mechanisms
Enhancing coping mechanisms through therapy can have a range of benefits for individuals. These benefits include:
- Improved mental health: Individuals with healthy coping mechanisms are less likely to experience mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety.
- Better relationships: Healthy coping mechanisms can improve interpersonal relationships by reducing conflict and improving communication.
- Increased resilience: Individuals with healthy coping mechanisms are better equipped to handle stress and adversity.
- Improved physical health: Healthy coping mechanisms such as exercise can improve physical health by reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
- How long does it take to see results from therapy? The length of time it takes to see results from therapy varies depending on the individual and their specific concerns. However, individuals can begin to see improvements after a few sessions.
- What is the difference between healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms? Healthy coping mechanisms are strategies that individuals use to manage stress and overwhelming emotions in a positive and productive way. Unhealthy coping mechanisms are strategies that have negative consequences, do not serve the function of downregulating emotional overwhelm and can exacerbate mental health concerns.
- Can therapy help with addiction? Yes, therapy can be an effective treatment for addiction. Therapists can use evidence-based techniques to help individuals identify and address the underlying causes of addiction and develop healthy coping mechanisms to reduce harm, manage cravings and navigate triggers.
- What should I look for in a therapist? When looking for a therapist, it is important to consider their qualifications and experience, as well as their approach to therapy. It is also perhaps even most important to find a therapist who you feel comfortable talking to and who understands your concerns.
- Is therapy covered by insurance? Many insurance plans provide coverage for mental health therapy. It is important to check with your insurance provider to ensure coverage and to understand any restrictions or limitations that may apply.
- Are there other means to financially support therapy? At Chatrath Counselling Centre, we have clinicians approved to direct bill to FNIHB for those with Treaty or Inuit status who are without other health benefits. We also have clinicians who can direct bill for RCMP Members and Veterans to Medavie Blue Cross. Cheryl-Lynn is approved to be able to direct bill to Victim’s Services for individuals who have been impacted by crime and have an open and active file with Victim Services. Cheryl-Lynn is approved as a clinician who is able to direct bill to Jordan’s Principle for children with treaty status. We have clinicians approved to direct bill to Worker’s Compensation and M.P.I. for individuals who have been approved for counselling/therapy support as part of their applicable claim. Lastly, on a case-by-case basis, we are able to direct bill insurance companies for individuals on short-term disability claims.
In conclusion, therapy provides individuals with the tools and strategies to enhance their coping mechanisms and improve their resilience. Through therapy, individuals can identify and address unhealthy coping mechanisms and replace them with healthier ones. This can lead to improved mental health, better relationships, increased resilience, and improved physical health.
If you’re considering therapy, it’s important to find a qualified and experienced therapist with who you feel comfortable talking. Remember that therapy is a process and results may take time, but with the right therapist and approach, therapy can be a life-changing experience.