What Will You (or your child or your family) Get From Therapy?
Are you wondering what happens in therapy? What to expect your experience will be like? Do you have questions about how long it will take, and whether you’ll get the results you want?
These are questions I welcome and I’ll do my best to answer them here. Since most descriptions of psychotherapy tend to be dry and filled with jargon, I’ll use the metaphor of renovating a house to give you a picture of what you can expect your therapy experience to be like:
The first stage of therapy is like beginning a home renovation, with the home being a metaphor for your life or your child or family’s life. In the first conversations we share, we will talk about what you like and don’t like about living in your current home, we’ll discuss the changes you would like to make, and come up with a plan for what you want to work on and how you would like to see things improve.
In therapy, we begin the same way—we figure out together what you want to accomplish through therapy and collaborate to create an outline of what you want your life to look like when we are done. The first stage usually takes 2 or 3 meetings.
The second stage is the work of therapy—You might, for instance, want to add new windows to see things in new ways, knock down some walls to remove obstacles and create new opportunities in life, widen doors to improve your ability to communicate with others, and strengthen the foundation and the roof to give you more security and comfort in your life.
With therapy, the working stage is when you are creating new ways of thinking and doing things to improve your experiences in life.
As we go along, you will probably enjoy seeing the changes we are creating in your “home” as they come into being. You can expect to see some of the first changes in the first days and weeks of therapy. More substantial changes will likely occur further on as we go.
Just as with home renovation projects, if years have passed and the home has fallen into disrepair, rebuilding and restoring the home may take months of work.
Like all renovation projects, there are also likely to be weeks when you will feel discouraged by the confusion, the dust, and the disruption that therapy is creating in your life. It may even seem as if things are getting worse, not better, at least temporarily.
The more significant improvement you want out of therapy, the more work there is to do. And there may well be times when it seems as if therapy is all work, with no improvement in sight. Yet, I’ll also be there to encourage you as we go along, showing you how the valuable work we are doing together is helping you reach your goals.
The second stage of therapy typically lasts 6 to 12 sessions—depending upon how much you want to accomplish and how much effort you are willing and able to put into it. More substantial improvement may take 3-6 months or longer.
Occasionally, just as with home renovations, your therapy work may reveal unexpected problems previously hidden behind walls or under floorboards. If this happens, we can discuss whether you want to extend our working time together to deal with these underlying issues and continue towards your goals.
The third and last stage is when you are ready to fully “move in” to your renovated home and get ready to move on. At this stage, we will finish clearing away the construction debris, cleaning out what you don’t want to live with anymore, and adding any new features or details that you want to be truly comfortable and at ease in your “newly renovated” life.
This last stage usually takes 2 or 3 meetings. After making sure you are comfortable and at ease with your new changes, we will probably say goodbye, with the assurance that you can call upon me again later if you wish to tackle future renovations or repairs.
Thank you for your willingness to consider taking on this “renovation” in your own life or your family’s life. Extensive research* continues to show that individual and family psychotherapy are time and cost effective solutions to life’s problems, and that those who participate in psychotherapy improve more over time than those who try to work out their problems on their own. You can count on me to fulfill my commitment to make therapy a successful and satisfying experience for you and your family.
*Shadish, et al. The Efficacy of Marital and Family Therapy: An Empirical Overview, Conclusions, and Recommendations. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1752-0606.1995.tb00179.x/abstract