The older I get, the simpler I like life to be. I have carried this over to my therapy practice as well. When describing the therapy process to clients in the initial session, there are times when I will say “therapy isn’t rocket science.” I explain that I use no particular formula for therapy and it isn’t magical. Much of it is common sense and practical application. That said, it is often helpful to have a knowledgeable guide (the therapist) to travel with along the path of improved mental health, improved marriages, and improved family relationships. This guide can be useful to reality test what makes sense, what is helpful, what is in keeping with God’s word, and what is not.
Too often, we look too far ahead in dealing with our life and our troubles. While planning ahead is a good thing, “worrying ahead” may be paralyzing. It is in these situations that I use a phrase that has been utilized in 12-Step program circles for some time, “do the next right thing.”
For someone who is anxious or depressed, functioning in daily life can be overwhelming. Especially if they are looking beyond the next hour, day, or week. Don’t go there! Instead, ask yourself, “what is the next right thing?” For someone who is seriously depressed, it may be getting out of bed to sit in the recliner, showering, or combing their hair. Step by step, look for the next right thing. Celebrate the success of completing the next right thing, small as it may seem to some, it may be huge to you given your circumstances.
Are you feeling distance from your partner in marriage? You don’t know what to do get past the barriers between you? What to do – the next right thing. Focus on your partner, not yourself. Text them “I love you.” Fix a special meal. Squeeze their hand. Kiss their cheek. Move off “stuck” in the smallest way. But realize you are moving by doing the next right thing.
You may be experiencing a conflict of conscience with a person, or on the job. Try asking yourself, “what would Jesus say is “the next right thing?” Simplistic? Yes. But powerful and clearly outlined in his Word.
There are certainly times when asking yourself the question is not enough and you need a guide along the way. That is when a Christian counselor, a pastor, a trusted mentor, or friend may help you figure out how to get unstuck by doing “the next right thing.”
Tonya Larson, LISW
Outpatient Individual and Couples Therapist serving the Fort Dodge Area