When you're in the throws of severe depression or crippling anxiety or a life-threatening eating disorder, it's hard to imagine ever feeling better, let alone being completely free of those symptoms. Even some counselors take a somewhat pessimistic view, seeing mental illnesses as something you have to manage or stay "in recovery" from your whole life. With a few exceptions*, this couldn't be further from the truth.
Symptoms like low self-esteem, loss of motivation, worry, frustration and discouragement can be eliminated by changing our thoughts. (Does this sound like some cheesy power of positive thinking approach? Check out this blog post). No matter how long you've suffered, or how intense your suffering has been, you can get better.
In the approach I use developed by David Burns, MD, called TEAM-CBT, we can use techniques from all different therapy modalities to change negative thoughts and beliefs. We need many different techniques because what works for one person may not work for another. We know a technique works for you when you are able to crush a negative thought and replace it with a positive thought that is true and believable. When this happens, you experience full recovery from a symptom, like low self-esteem. It can happen in an instant (though there's usually some trial and error before we find the right technique) and you can feel real happiness.
This doesn't mean the negative thought and negative emotion will never come back, but you will know how to tackle it when it does and get back to your healthy self. This is why relapse planning is an important part of this process. But even relapses are a blessing in disguise! Each time you crush and re-crush a negative thought, the weaker it gets and the stronger you get.
*Full recovery is available for any disorder that is caused by negative thinking - this includes almost all disorders except schizophrenia, bipolar or other similar brain diseases. But even some of those symptoms can be improved with CBT.