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Joan Low

How do you feel about therapy, and online therapy in particular? What would you talk about, and where would you start?

Under the umbrella of mental health, real-life issues like anxiety, depression, stress, and lockdown fatigue, are especially present and common in today’s world. Normalising all mental health is a sign of the times during which many, if not most or all of us, face one of the most challenging series of events – from health and safety, to business and politics.

Would you let to professional teach you how to cope, understand, and thrive in life?

In school as kids and teenagers, perhaps we lacked the learning of how to process emotions and experiences. While everyone’s collective experiences and completely unique to the individual, some common life lessons we were taught, may include how to get over negative emotions quickly, or to forget about them all together.

And that’s okay, because even as adults, we’re still able to learn about ourselves. And now we have the tools we need to make changes for growth. One of these tools is therapy. Although therapy is often referred to simply as ‘talking to someone’, the idea of being vulnerable and open to feelings can make us feel uncomfortable and defensive. And that’s okay too.

Consider this bit of wisdom ahead from researcher, storyteller, and author of five best sellers #1 New York Times, Brené Brown.

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor — the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognise the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ordinary courage.”

Joan Low

When Joan Low was a former banker at J.P. Morgan in Hong Kong, she recognised the vast differences between the traditional mental healthcare system in South East Asia and other countries in the West and North Asia.

As a mental health caregiver herself, she set out to create a mental health-focused solution that would help others. Called ThoughtFull, the app conducts therapy through 1-on-1 daily coaching sessions with professionals to work towards your goals.

“It’s usually a challenge for individuals to know the difference between psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and counsellors; who to see and when; and if the professional is credible and a best-fit for them,” Joan tells us.

“These are the crux of the problems that ThoughtFull aims to solve by building an infrastructure where people can seamlessly navigate and engage with their mental health without having to deal with all the unknowns.”

Aside from therapy and coaching, ThoughtFull offers tools to help you track your moods, progress, and journal your thoughts through a monthly subscription service.

Read on about using therapy, and online therapy in particular, to take charge of your mental health.

The ‘help’ in getting help

In many cases, an individual seeks therapy when they face a crisis. The common approach is traditional hour-long therapy in person. But the reality we don’t often accept is that stress, anxiety, and challenges to our wellbeing exist in our day-to-day lives. Hence, Joan says it’s important to pay attention to our daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly needs by being proactive when caring for our mental health.

With ThoughtFull’s chat feature, users can engage with their mental heath as a lifestyle choice, not just for crisis intervention. And to make it easier, the chat with professionals uses text and audio-messaging.

“We socialise, date, and work through messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram, so why not leverage our digital lives for our wellbeing too?” Joan asks.

“Individuals can discreetly sign up at ThoughtFull using a pseudonym, and learn about all things mental wellbeing through bite-sized lessons designed by our clinical team. For those interested in engaging further, our algorithms will instantly match users to a best-fit mental health coach so they can directly chat. Our coaches will asynchronously check-in daily.”

Why taking charge of our wellbeing is important

If exercise keeps us healthy and can help avoid physical illnesses, then we should also build our mental fitness through cultivating daily habits. Doing so feels good in the moment, and progressively sharpens our self-awareness and understanding of why we make certain decisions or form certain opinions.

Joan warns not to fall for the misconception that once therapy begins, all problems will be solved. “The truth is, a lot of the outcomes are driven by ourselves, how engaged we want to be and how much work we want to put in. Therapy and coaching provides an avenue for you to reflect openly, break down safely, and rebuild constructively, but it is not a panacea.”

She continues, “Daily exercises such as tracking our moods, journaling our thoughts, practicing reframing and mindful tools, are all small things that we can do daily to gain outsized results in the long run. Just like how we have to consistently do our weight training in order to build up our strength to carry heavier weights, the same applies for our minds.”

How to help someone who might be struggling

Sometimes, Joan says, the best thing we could do for our loved ones who are struggling is to simply be there for them.

“Try not to lead with solutions, instead, offer first a listening ear and validate their emotions. Validating their emotions doesn’t mean you agree with them, but it shows that you understand their pain and acknowledge that whatever they are experiencing is real for them. Providing a safe space for someone to express their feelings openly is a powerful gift, as it allows them to express their struggles without guilt,” she advises.

When it’s okay to discuss practical solutions, share helpful resources or encourage them to seek help from a professional trained to help. And while we may want to ensure those we love get the help they need, Joan says to remember that it’s important to pay attention to your own wellbeing.

“Know that it’s okay to draw boundaries and take some space for yourself. We need to first show up for ourselves before we can show up for others,” she says.

What employers can do to support their staff

There are two main things Joan shares that employers can look into when setting up their mental-wellbeing infrastructure. The first, is to ensure that there is a “psychologically safe space for their employees”.  Joan says this is where mental health education, training of managers, and culture comes in.

“The second thing, is to put into place proper resources that employees can easily access at their own time without having to go through hoops and bureaucracy to use it. As the impact of one-off engagements such as one-off webinars and yoga classes are limited, employers are encouraged to take a more comprehensive approach in their needs assessment as well as implementation.”

For employees who are working from home, it’s important to set boundaries between your work and personal life. Communicate clearly with your team what your expectations are, but also remember to set boundaries for yourself – distinguishing between work and personal space or time.

Finally, Joan reminds us that the pandemic is tough on all of us in different ways, and the support of colleagues plays an important role in riding out the storm together. “Working from home can sometimes feel very lonely and isolating, so whether it’s through a Zoom call or meeting up at a specified place, try to stay connected with your team. Take mindful breaks in between tasks by taking a quick walk outside your house, or even just to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee to break the monotony and get moving.”

ThoughtFull is offering Prestige readers a 15% discount on top of the app’s existing 14-day free trial.

Getting started is easy:

  1. Download ThoughtFullChat on iOS or Android.
  2. Sign up, select your coach and enter promo code PRESTIGE15 (valid for sign-ups until 31 October 2021).
  3. Explore our lesson packs, track your moods, thoughts, and #HaveAThoughtFullChat with your own coach.

(All images: ThoughtFull)

This story first appeared in Prestige Malaysia.

The post ThoughtFull founder Joan Low on why therapy helps more than ever appeared first on Prestige Online – Singapore.