Are we there yet? How long does therapy take anyways?
Perhaps you started therapy with an immediate need that you wanted to address such as conflict with a loved one, difficulty at work, or perhaps feeling challenged by the never-ending transitions of life. Maybe you started therapy without a complete understanding of why but had the notion that something in your life was unsettled. Whatever the reason for stepping foot down the path of understanding, after several sessions or months it has become clear that the path is not exactly a straight and smooth journey.
Therapy is by no means easy; it requires courage, willingness, and above all else patience. We live in a culture of immediate gratification, and often expect quick fixes that will lead to feeling better instantly. Diet culture is evidence of our desire to expect quick solutions with long-term benefits and is also an example of wanting to “fix” the problem without actually having to address the problem. The hard reality, however, is that change is slow especially change with long lasting value.
Often people ask me how long they think they will need to be in therapy, and most often my answer is the same; it depends. Evidence based research will give you quantifiable timetables for your therapy along with self-screening questionnaires and desired outcomes. Numbers and timetables feel good, except that they do not account for the complexity of the human condition. One of the most essential components to a successful therapeutic experience is your relationship with your therapist. Building a trusting and healing therapeutic relationship can take time. Your therapist must know you and your circumstances prior to providing useful feedback or suggestions. You need to know your therapist and feel safe prior to accepting said feedback and suggestions.
The other critical component to therapy and igniting change is accountability. This one has the propensity to be a slow process because focusing on what everyone else is doing is a lot easier than self-reflection. Accountability means “what role am I playing in my current challenges?” and “do I want change enough to make changes?”. To be clear, accountability is not about assigning blame, but instead developing awareness of what is and is not within one’s realm of control. You cannot change your mother; however, you can change your approach to interactions.
How you approach therapy can play a large role in what outcomes you achieve. Going through the motions is not enough, and neither is leaving the work to one hour a week.
Adequate sleep, diet, exercise, medication compliance (if necessary) and journaling (or some form of meditations) are the tools that will help you start to feel better and lead you to reflecting on the areas of your life that you want to improve. Communication with your therapist will also yield better results, let them know what is helpful and what feels irrelevant. And take stock in knowing that change is a lifelong process which requires awareness and willingness. When you open the window to reflection and accountability you are creating the option for different.
Perhaps if you have to ask, the answer is keep going.