Results vary from person to person. Some people feel immediate shifts in a session, and more significant long-term change builds incrementally. Years of stress and related patterns were put into place over time. Similarly both time and space are needed to establish new patterns and behaviors as well as to restore and repair. While there are prescriptive and protocol-driven forms of short-term therapy available, lasting sustainable change requires attuned approaches tailored to each individual.
For example, benefits from a nine-month period are quite different from results after three years or more. A client at the end of a 6-9 month period, may have gained awareness of her patterns and valued having a neutral space to hear herself as well as receive feedback. Some clients feel better and transition here.
However, sometimes awareness of patterns isn’t yet enough to implement changes. At this point, I often hear clients say, “I see what my patterns are and I don’t know how to stop.” Therapy as an experience has its phases that trace natural processes of growth.
Like any story, there’s often a beginning, middle and end.
Therapy at the beginning is about addressing the pressing issues that prompted you to seek professional support. My approach in the initial phase is often stabilization. Major changes in an already destabilized or distressed state can be too much.
I often tell clients, “Now that you’re out of crisis, we can really look at what’s at the heart of the matter.” With greater stability and a foundation of support, deeper issues can be examined together. New behaviors and risks can be taken. Therapy can provide guidance, feedback and support while you’re experimenting. Some things you try will feel freeing. Other things might fall flat. Either way, you will have a trusted witness to guide you through. Of course, I paint this picture with broad brush strokes.
Each journey is unique. As trust and security are established over time with a practitioner, more can be explored. As initial goals and outcomes are fulfilled, new themes and directions for working together reveal themselves along the way. For instance, someone with an initial focus of wanting help with dating and finding a partner, now shares new difficulties with their spouse, wanting/having a family etc. Others may start therapy after the loss of a loved one. There are so many different journeys in therapy.
Clients who spend perhaps several years in therapy might see their whole life changed: a greater sense of confidence, career growth as well as more satisfying, loving relationships. They may be quite happy and content. And, they may still want the supportive relationship of their trusted therapist.