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  1. #1
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    What happens in therapy

    Therapy Is A Journey
    Counseling therapy is not a quick fix but rather a journey of discovery. With the guidance of the therapist, an individual will explore different ideas about their beliefs and behaviours and potential blockages to a more fulfilled life. At times, progress will seem rapid, at others people will resist ideas with which they are uncomfortable and progress will slow.

    Like all journeys, the willingness of an individual to explore different paths and their determination to continue will determine how long it takes and the paths that it follows. The therapist will provide guidance and assistance but the journey is for the individual.

    Different Techniques
    'Psychodynamic', 'Cognitive Therapy', 'Hypnotherapy', 'Freudian' are just some of the many phrases and buzzwords used to describe different techniques in counselling therapy.

    A therapist is a professional who has training and experience in a variety of different approaches to therapy. Like every profession there is lively academic debate as to the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches. Different professionals will have their own personal preferences.

    For the person considering or undertaking therapy, all of this is unimportant. The role of the therapist is to identify and apply the technique or combination of techniques that will most effectively assist each individual in their specific circumstances. The key question someone should ask themselves is 'does this work for me? Is it getting through my resistance and 'clicking' at a gut level?'. The answer should be discussed with the therapist: just as you would discuss the effectiveness of a medical treatment with a doctor, talk with your therapist about what does and does not work for you so that they can fine tune their approach and help you achieve the best possible results.

    A typical session
    The standard image of a therapy session most people have is shaped by television: we expect the 'patient' to be lying in a couch relating stories of a painful childhood while the therapist constantly asks "and how did that make you feel?".

    In fact, the only thing 'typical' about a therapy session is that there is nothing typical. Some therapists may indeed suggest the use of a couch for some sessions, as avoiding eye contact can be a useful way to allow people to overcome their inhibitions. But for other people or at other times it might be right simply to sit comfortably and talk or to pace around or whatever works best.

    And indeed, a therapist may ask probing and often uncomfortable questions. Their purpose here is to help the person undertaking therapy to explore feelings and beliefs that are in some way suppressed or unconscious. Often the person undertaking therapy will be encouraged to do much of the talking but at other times the therapist will suggest ideas and actions or simply tell stories of other situations which offer an insight.

    The key feature of a successful therapy session is that it leads to insight - an 'ah ha' experience where something suddenly becomes clear and a greater sense of awareness about an issue is generated.

    It is the therapist's professional role to design and manage a therapy session to make possible such moments of insight or clarity. But the person undertaking therapy is an active participant in the process. By stating frankly what does and doesn't work and by engaging as honestly as possible in dialogue with the therapist, the value of a therapy session can be much improved.

    How long does a typical therapy programme take?
    A therapy programme takes as long as it takes. The needs and circumstances of every individual undertaking a therapy programme are different so the length of a successful therapy programme must also be different.

    There are two related factors that have the greatest influence over the length of a therapy programme: the complexity of the issue and the amount of resistance displayed by someone during therapy.

    A 'simple' issue such dealing with grief or a parenting difficulty which is causing concern within an otherwise balanced life can often be successfuly treated with between 4 and 10 therapy sessions. A more complex issue which is deeply embedded in many aspects of the personality of someone seeking therapy, for example, feelings of inadequacy and insecurity arising from childhood experiences, can take considerably longer. The willingness of each individual to actively seek out new insights and try to overcome blockages also makes an important difference.

    The good news is that even though a complete course of treatment may take some time, it is not uncommon to begin making progress and achieving a noticable relief in symptoms after several sessions.

    When Should I Stop?
    The simple answer to this question is: when you want to.

    The TV stereotype of therapy as a more or less permanent part of one's life is false. Although it is true that some people with severe psychological problems may need therapy for an extended period, the goal of therapy is to achieve a permanent positive change in one's way of being - and that implies that one day therapy must stop.

    As a general rule an individual undertaking therapy will know it is time to stop when the symptoms that initially prompted them to seek out therapy have abated or stopped. Another useful indicator is when there no longer seems to be anything to talk about. If therapy sessions are not exploring new ground or seeking new insights then they are either no longer necessary or perhaps a change in therapist should be considered.

    One warning, however, is important. It's often the case that someone will feel like stopping therapy when the subject matter has simply become too difficult. This can be the sign that distractions and outer layers have been peeled away and the therapy programme is close to uncovering important truths and key insights. It's just at this time that resistance can be greatest resulting in a desire to stop. For this reason, the decision to stop therapy should always be discussed with the therapist.
    ~ our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising each time we fall - confucius
    ~ it is the journey, not the destination, that matters
    ~ keep hanging on, the sun will come shining through for you again

  2. #2
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    Re: What happens in therapy

    Great post Ladybug and I especially liked the last paragraph:

    One warning, however, is important. It's often the case that someone will feel like stopping therapy when the subject matter has simply become too difficult. This can be the sign that distractions and outer layers have been peeled away and the therapy programme is close to uncovering important truths and key insights. It's just at this time that resistance can be greatest resulting in a desire to stop. For this reason, the decision to stop therapy should always be discussed with the therapist

  3. #3
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    Re: What happens in therapy

    yes, i thought that was an important point and something that people might not realize.
    ~ our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising each time we fall - confucius
    ~ it is the journey, not the destination, that matters
    ~ keep hanging on, the sun will come shining through for you again

  4. #4
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    Re: What happens in therapy

    Very nice post indeed...

    I especially like the emphasis on the journey aspect. The mental image of helper and client walking hand in hand on a journey, (of discovery and healing), seems an ideal way to highlight the underlying importance of relationship.

    However you want to look at it, it has to feel right, it has to be a good fit, it has to work for both parties. Congrats on a great post!

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