In a world of fast food, instant communication, long hours and stress, it can be easy to want a quick fix. That cure-all pill, silver bullet or magic wand that will make everything better, but can a therapeutic experience really be like that? Counselling and psychotherapy in particular can seem to last a long time, it’s not unheard of for psychotherapists to see a Client for 7 years or more. It can feel like therapy is an extreme commitment; and yet 6 weeks free counselling on the NHS often does not feel like nearly enough to sort anything out. So what is counselling really like and how long is long enough?
Therapy is a bit like a story, it has a beginning, middle and end. In the beginning a working relationship is formed, you get to know your Therapist, give an outline of your story, hopes and expectations and most importantly trust forms. Trust is a key component in therapy because not every session is easy and you need to know you are cared for and feel safe to explore what’s going on for you. The middle is a time to deeply explore and work through the issues you came with, to support you as things change and begin to feel different. Even positive changes can feel strange at first if you are not used to them. Finally when you feel the time is right an ending can be worked towards, enabling you to say goodbye and move on.
So how long does this process take? The answer is: it varies; no one’s journey is the same some Client’s come with deep-rooted complex issues and others with a specific problem they want to fix. The deeper rooted your issue the longer you are likely to want to stay. Problems don’t appear overnight, sometimes they have been going on for years, maybe even since childhood and such problems can’t be worked through in an afternoon especially if they have led to mental and emotional distress. Alternatively there are some issues like stress at work, where you may want to have support and a sounding board as you work towards resolving the problem that has arisen. Or you feel you want a new direction in life but need help to move on because things feel stuck.
A good private therapist will discuss with you what you hope to get from therapy and help you decided on how long you want to stay. Fees can be negotiated to take account of your economic situation and allow you to still attend therapy regularly. Although you are free to leave at any point in the process most therapists like to know when their Client wants to finish their therapy so they can work towards a good ending for you. Researching a potential therapist via their website, Counselling Directory and the BACP register can help you to find someone you feel you can work with. Some Clients may choose to see 2 or 3 therapists for an initial consultation to see if they ‘like’ working with them. Ultimately it’s about doing what’s best for you.
Therapy is not a quick fix, but engaging with a friendly, trustworthy counsellor who you feel comfortable to work with can make all the difference, and help you to make you own personal journey through therapy.