I don’t want to sound like a non-committal politician, but it’s different for everyone. That said, some people begin to feel relief at their first visit due to one or a combination of these reasons: finally sharing things they may never have shared with others, venting, having someone empathetic listen to them, and receiving some reassurance that they aren’t as crazy as they thought they were.
While the Woody Allens of this world would like for therapy to go on forever, it’s totally unnecessary. However, the benefits of long-term therapy, i.e. more than a few months, are unmistakable. The people who have worked with me for well over a year have made a good deal of progress in their self-esteem, ability to speak their truth, and willingness to make changes in their lives. However, I would say that all of these people began to feel better about certain issues in their lives within the first few months. They just chose to move on to deeper issues once the initial concern that brought them in was no longer an urgent problem.
People tend to come in for therapy because of one particular issue, for example, divorce, depression, work stress, or relationship trouble. What we tend to discover is that the behavioral or mental patterns contributing to that particular problem are present in other areas of their lives causing some problems there too. One example would be fear of speaking your truth because you think someone will get angry. Then the worst possible consequence you can imagine is that someone will get angry and leave you. Can you see how this fear would inhibit you from telling your partner something that he or she doesn’t want to hear? But can you also see how it could keep you from speaking your mind to your best friend, your boss, even your landlord? It all boils down to the same issue; it just presents itself in different scenarios – some more intense than others. Why? Well because it’s your issue and you bring yourself to every situation. Believe me, you’ll even bring it into the therapy room because it’s not like you’ll come in and leave your personality outside the door. And that’s fine, you will act out your issues with me too and the difference will be that I will be able to point them out to you without getting as confused, defensive, or frustrated as other people in your life would. In other words, I won’t take it personally and will just talk to you openly about what you are doing in a way that most people in your life can’t.
So, of course, some people come to therapy and resolve the specific issue that was causing them trouble and then they leave happy with their results. Then other people discover that the initial issue, although it has improved, is just the first layer of that onion, and have the desire and courage to stay longer and dig deeper in order to effect deeper change in different areas of their lives.
Maybe after my long response that’s what it really boils down to: Do you want a little change in your life or do you want A LOT OF CHANGE in your life? It’s not a judgment – neither one is inherently better than the other. It’s all about what you want and need. If you look at your life and realize that there are several areas that you’re unhappy about…well then stick around for a bit, do the work, and watch your life change.
Have you been in therapy before? How long did it take before your felt some relief? Does the possibility of how long therapy can take prevent you from ever beginning?
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