A breakthrough is when the client makes a realization about themselves in therapy. It can be them discovering what the root of their addiction or mental illness is and what kind of changes they need to make in their life. By having a breakthrough in therapy, you’ll have a better understanding of who you are and what to be more aware of going forward.

As a patient, your treatment plan will originally be created with your therapist, including a variety of techniques that make sense for your sessions. It is perfectly normal for those initial therapy sessions to be awkward but moving forward, the aim is to have a breakthrough in therapy. Your therapist can also prescribe outside resources and additional support for you to utilize, giving you the greatest chance of experiencing your next mental health and recovery breakthrough moments.

What Therapies Contribute to a Breakthrough?

There’s a range of therapies designed to help reduce the symptoms of anxiety, PTSD and other mental health issues that can help you restructure the way you think and lead to a breakthrough in your treatment.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based therapy that helps clients rethink damaging thoughts such as negative self-talk. Another breakthrough therapy in handling past trauma is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), created to help patients deal with remembering traumatic memories. With these skills in your toolbox, you can experience and safely handle emotional breakthroughs in therapy.

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What Are Examples of Breakthroughs?

A breakthrough in recovery can look very different from one situation to the next. Some might be invoked spontaneously, without a clear reason behind the moment aside from the presence of extreme emotions. Others can only be achieved through steady, determined therapy sessions that are decided upon by you and your therapist, also known as goal-based breakthroughs.

Emotional Breakthrough in Therapy

One type of breakthrough is when you gain access to deeper feelings you’re harboring. You are making progress and finally, open up to your therapist about how you’re feeling as you speak about a specific incident that made your world view much clearer. Feelings like anger or sadness that have been buried for a long time finally make an appearance.

Another breakthrough can be realizing self-destructive patterns like substance abuse or getting involved with people who are bad for you. A third type is deciding to commit to a goal you’ve always been afraid of going after and being who you are instead of someone else.

Other examples of emotional breakthroughs in therapy include:

  • Having a moment of clarity regarding a traumatic situation
  • Remembering a long-hidden childhood memory
  • A bubbling up of emotions that had previously been suppressed

Whatever your breakthroughs look like, remember that the process can be intense and you may need to take a break from the activity that triggered your breakthrough, taking care to respect your mental health needs during therapy.

man experiencing positive change after a therapy session

Enhance a Therapy Session With Goal-Based Breakthroughs

Breakthroughs can be based on goals. You may not always know what your goals are when you enter therapy. It’s not until you go into it more that you realize what your objectives are.

It can be goals like improving your relationships with those around you or attending more 12-step meetings. It may take weeks, months or years to reach an important realization that helps you accomplish your goals, but having a mission can be one of the most fulfilling aspects of life.

When working with your therapist, you can track your progress through measurable goals. In addition to the base goal of refraining from using drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or other addictive substances, you can measure your healing by setting specific goals. These goals can be such activities as:

  • Daily journaling when feelings of anxiety and other strong emotions occur to determine at what point a trigger occurred
  • Following agreed-upon sleep schedules and eating patterns
  • Adhering to a self-care schedule with tasks like meditating, hygienic actions and exercise

Whatever goals you set with your therapist during a session, having a breakthrough in therapy can often occur when you’ve bypassed your expectations of yourself. In addition to the boost in self-esteem, seeing that you’re making progress in certain areas can improve the therapeutic process by providing important insight into the way healing can happen for you.

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No Two Therapy Breakthroughs Look Alike

Your individual stories, personal moments and past family and romantic relationships will determine how and when your breakthroughs occur. They can also drastically affect how intensely a patient experiences a breakthrough moment.

For example, if you were recently diagnosed with a mental health disorder rooted in childhood trauma, you could experience a breakthrough that shakes your foundations to the core, resulting in a flurry of distressing emotions. If you’re experiencing this in therapy, it can be easier to deal with as you can rely on the support of your therapist to help you work through the difficult feelings.

Each client’s process will vary depending on factors such as the presence of anger, strained family relationships and other personal and behavioral aspects that cause a person to react one way or another. The help of a skilled, understanding therapist can help you identify your core strengths and the weaknesses that need to be overcome to reach a breakthrough.

What Are Therapy Breakthroughs Built On?

Breakthroughs are based on trust in your therapist that lets you feel you can tell them anything in that safe environment you are in. You can lower your shields to open up to your therapist about things you’d never tell anyone else, because you know they’ll understand. A therapist’s office should feel like a judgment-free haven where you can talk about anything without experiencing a negative reaction.

In this type of supportive environment, with a guiding counselor who can hold your hand as you navigate stressful emotions, you can feel free to explore any difficulty you face in therapy. Addiction therapists are also able to provide an alternate perspective, allowing you to rethink the way you previously felt about a situation.

breakthrough moments are build on trust

What Should Breakthroughs Feel Like in the Therapeutic Process?

Breakthroughs are based on the interaction you had with your therapist. They can mean you’ve reviewed your past with your therapist and found a new lease on life. You may not even notice you’ve had a breakthrough until your positive acts evoke positive changes. Experiencing a breakthrough confirms you’re on the cusp of changing your life for the better. You’ll never be the same person after experiencing therapy breakthroughs.

Suppose your breakthrough is one of the aha! moment types, you might experience a visceral response from your body. This is an indication that your nervous system has been altered with hormones released during stressful situations, such as recalling a traumatic event.

Your therapist will be able to help you relax after such an experience, leading you through mindfulness exercises designed to keep you present and focused on the process and helping you manage your overall wellness

Are You Ready for Breakthrough Moments With Mental Health?

Located in Georgetown, Texas, the facilities at Alta Loma provides transformational services to those in early recovery from psychiatric and substance use disorders. At Alta Loma, we believe addiction is born from untreated mental illness, and our team is dedicated to helping you unpack the processes that contribute to your addictive behaviors.

Our programs offer supportive housing, medication management education, individualized treatment, life skills education, 12-step support and more tools to help patients find the confidence they need to live an independent life. For more information, please call us at 866-457-3843.