The Ultimate Toolbox: 10 Tactical Techniques Counsellors Use to Mend Broken Hearts
Breakups can be incredibly challenging and overwhelming, leaving us feeling lost and shattered. The average adult spends up to 11 weeks getting through the trauma of a breakup; the symptoms that can come with a broken heart can even mimic bereavement. The emotional toll the end of a romantic relationship takes on us is undeniable, and it’s completely normal to feel disoriented and broken.
Although it may feel like it, you aren’t alone in feeling this way. Therapists and counsellors around the world hear breakup stories so often that they have tried-and-true methods for helping their clients through these tough times.
Today, we’ll explore 10 of these tactics and discuss how you can incorporate them into your own healing routine. Let’s mend that broken heart using the power of psychology!
Table of Contents
1. Empathetic Listening: The Power of Being Heard
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it has to be said. Empathic listening can be incredibly beneficial when you’re going through a breakup. Talking about it with a good listener can help you feel validated, providing you with active support and encouraging you to reflect and process whatever you’re struggling with. It can be easier said than done to find an empathetic listening partner, but if you have anyone in your life who you know would be happy to listen to your problems, grab them for a quick heart-to-heart. You’ll feel better after, I promise!
2. Cognitive Restructuring: Rewiring Negative Thought Patterns
The idea of rewiring your brain to override negative thoughts with positive ones, like replacing a broken lightbulb, can seem a little strange, but it’s an effective method, explains counselling specialist Owen Smith from Association of Learning.
“The main idea is that by altering your automatic thoughts, you have the power to positively impact your emotions and behaviours.” When you’ve gone through a breakup, a common persistent belief is that you’ll never find love again. If you have a quick comeback to these nasty thoughts, you’ll be able to reframe your beliefs and fear about love.”
Owen informed Health2Wellness that there are many helpful therapeutic tricks that therapists typically covet:
“In the past, academics and practising therapists held all the information. There hasn’t been an accessible way for the public to learn simple techniques that have been proven to help. So it’s been amazing to see online counselling courses crop up, giving people the opportunity to learn how to properly drive their minds.”
He suggests those interested look into short-study distance courses, which are becoming popular online. Some courses, like this Counselling Diploma Level 3, even give learners the opportunity to work as self-employed counsellors after completion.
Try this simple cognitive restructuring exercise:
Take a piece of paper and divide the page into two columns.
Label the left column “Negative thoughts” and the right column “Alternative thoughts.”
In the left column, write down the negative thoughts or beliefs that are currently affecting you in relation to the breakup. For example, it could be thoughts like “I’ll never find someone who loves me again” or “It’s all my fault that the relationship ended.”
Once you have listed your negative thoughts, examine each one individually and challenge them in the right column. Write down alternative thoughts or more balanced perspectives that counter the negative beliefs. For instance, instead of thinking, “I’ll never find someone who loves me again,” an alternative thought could be, “While this breakup is painful, it doesn’t mean I won’t find love in the future. It opens up the opportunity for a healthier and more fulfilling relationship.”
Next, review the alternative thoughts and assess the evidence supporting them. Ask yourself if there are any experiences or examples that contradict your negative thoughts.
This exercise helps shift the focus towards more realistic and positive interpretations of the breakup.
3. Mindfulness and Meditation: Finding Peace in the Present
As you may be experiencing firsthand, breakups often bring intense emotions such as sadness, anger, and anxiety. Counsellors often suggest mindfulness and meditation to mitigate these overwhelming feelings.
It may feel silly or uncomfortable to begin with, but this meditation practise can help you come down from your heightened emotional state:
- Find a quiet and comfortable space where you can be undisturbed for a few minutes. Make yourself as comfortable as possible.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, allowing your body and mind to settle. Feel the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your body, grounding you in the present moment.
- Begin to bring your attention to your thoughts and emotions relating to the breakup. Notice any feelings of sadness, anger, or confusion that arise. Allow yourself to acknowledge these emotions without judgement or resistance.
- Shift your focus to your breath. Notice the gentle rhythm of your inhales and exhales. As you breathe in, silently say to yourself, “Breathing in, I acknowledge my pain.” As you breathe out, silently say, “Breathing out, I release and let go.“
4. Journaling: Unleashing Emotions on Paper
Writing can be a powerful form of self-expression. Counsellors recommend journaling as a therapeutic tool to process emotions, gain insights, and track progress.
Here’s a simple journal prompt to try:
“Reflect on the lessons learned from your past relationship and envision the kind of future relationship you desire.” Take some time to consider your thoughts and feelings and write them down.
5. Building a Support Network: The Power of Connection
The worst thing you can do when going through a breakup is isolate yourself. Make sure to let your loved ones know that you’re going through a difficult emotional transition. Whether that’s firing off a text to the group chat to meet up or a heart-to-heart call with your nan, try to surround yourself with people who will remind you that things will be okay.
6. Self-Care Rituals: Nurturing the Mind, Body, and Soul
Feeling and looking your best is a great way to amplify the emotional work you’re doing to move on. Getting exercise, staying hydrated, and keeping up with your personal hygiene are great platforms for your new lease on life. You may want to lay in bed scoffing tubs of ice cream, but it won’t help!
7. Setting Boundaries: Protecting Emotional Space
Healing requires boundaries so that progress can be made. Counsellors help people create a safe emotional space by helping them develop appropriate boundaries with their exes.
8. Goal Setting: Focusing on the Future
Now that one chapter of your life has ended, another can begin. Try thinking about what’s really important to you and considering what your ideal future will look like. By taking steps towards new goals, you’ll feel a new sense of control following the breakup.
9. Positive Affirmations: Cultivating Self-Compassion
Having compassion for yourself is vital to recovering from the fallout of a breakup. Positive affirmations are something counsellors often recommend to their clients. Positive affirmations, such as “I am deserving of love and happiness,” may help people combat negative self-talk and develop a more loving and accepting internal monologue.
Try repeating these positive affirmations every morning in the mirror:
- “This split does not determine my value as a person, and I deserve love and happiness.”
- “I let go of the hurt and sadness of the past and welcome the hope and promise of a brighter future.”
- “I have the ability to recover and mature as a result of this challenge. I am excited to begin the healing process and learn to love and appreciate myself.”
10. Acceptance and Forgiveness: Liberating the Heart
Forgiveness and acceptance are necessary steps towards recovery. Counsellors teach their clients that forgiving an ex-partner isn’t about accepting or justifying the ex’s conduct but rather about moving on emotionally. Individuals may regain control of their lives and make room for personal development by forgiving those who have wronged them.
Try writing a forgiveness letter:
- Locate a peaceful, cosy spot where you won’t be disturbed.
- Address the letter to your ex-partner.
- Give some thought to how you feel after the split. Give yourself permission to feel and express what you’re experiencing.
- Write about the specific actions or situations that hurt you. Tell the truth about how they affected you emotionally and mentally.
- Turn your attention to the act of forgiving. Describe how you’ve decided to let go of resentment and release your negative feelings tied to the breakup.
- Show compassion and empathy, remembering that everyone is on their own path and has made mistakes. Recognize that your ex, like you, is a flawed human being.
- End the letter with an expression of forgiveness. Express your willingness to forgive your ex for the hurt they’ve caused you and move on with a positive attitude.
- Reread the letter and reflect on your feelings. Make a decision about what to do with the letter: preserve it as a personal reminder of your journey or destroy it to represent moving on.
It may be daunting to find your way through the difficult aftermath of a breakup, but therapists have a toolbox of tried-and-true methods to aid in the healing process. These ten strategic methods, ranging from mindful self-care to cognitive restructuring to empathetic listening, can help you heal from emotional wounds and move forward towards peace.
Keep in mind that recovery takes time, so be kind to yourself. Embrace your feelings, be proud of your achievements, and take comfort in knowing that a brighter future is waiting for you! Seek support, treat yourself gently, and regain your trust in love.