Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How Long Should You Be In Therapy?

How Long Should You Be In Therapy?
I just read an article titled that had merit to it, but then it probably inadvertently offered some bad advice for people.  I'll explain as I go through this blog post.  The title was In Therapy Forever and was published in The New York Times.  In many respects, I'm glad to see this subject being talked about, but I fear that in our instant society, it will send the wrong message.

Many years ago I had a friend who was seeing two therapists a week, going to group therapy and seeing a psychiatrist weekly.  He was complaining to me that he was making no progress and is one of those that could depress you after an hour conversation on the phone.  My response to him was, "maybe you are seeing too many therapists and you should cut back."  After hearing an audible gasp on the other end of the phone, he politely let me know that I was crazy for suggesting such a thing.

Other people that I have known who should have continued with therapy, quit long before they made progress.  They would come up to the edge of a major breakthrough only to run back to their safe space and avoid what they needed to deal with in their life.  Many humans do that because the fear of confronting these tough spaces is much greater and more difficult than actually doing the work to heal.

For myself, I had extensive therapy after going through a conversion disorder.  I did group therapy and individual counseling because I need to figure out how to re-enter life and society again.  It was not an easy process because I was dealing with anxiety, depression, and a loss of identity.  I was also trying to piece the painful parts of my life together and deal with an intense anger that was trying to surface.  Of course, the stopping point for therapy came when I no longer had insurance through my employer.

Years after I stopped therapy, another significant piece of my healing came front and center.  In fact, it came to such a point that I was suicidal and so depressed, I could barely function in my day.  I was hiding inside the four walls of my house and dealing with the aftershocks of being sexually abused as a child.  I was a mess and tried to hide it well, but I needed therapy to help me learn new ways to deal with my life.  I wasn't dealing with all these things and they were impacting every waking moment.

During this time, I was in therapy for about two years before I moved new location, these two years were well spent with a very talented therapist.  It was a healthy working relationship and one that I respected as well as I was respected by the therapist.  She helped challenge me in my healing so that I could move forward and she helped me learn new ways to cope with my life and see how I did not have to repeat the learned patterns of my past.

At no time in all of my therapy, did I ever worry about being cured in ten sessions.  At no time did I worry about how much time it was taking to heal my life because I knew I had been through an enormous amount of pain.  I could see the progress I was making and others around me could see that I was changing as a result.

There are talented therapists out there and there are ones we don't connect with, but the ego of both parties sometimes takes over, rather than honesty and reality.  Many times people need far more therapy than they are willing to do and sometimes we reach a point in healing, that we either need a break from therapy or we need a new therapist to help us grow into new places of our lives.  I think both parties need to be very real and honest about the healing relationship and check the ego at the door.

Fortunately, I've had the opportunity to work with another healing practitioner that has helped me release trauma from the body.  I'm so glad that I did all the ground work and healing with individual therapists, because this trauma release work has now enabled me to get back so much of my life.  I needed that foundation.  My life has changed in ways that I never thought were possible as a result of this cutting edge trauma healing work.

One size does not fit all, but trying to justify your avoidance to therapy based upon a number of visits, is short-sighted.  You need to actively measure progress with your therapist and if you are not achieving that, you need to be asking why?  Maybe it is something you are holding back on, or maybe your therapist has gone as far as they can go with you.  Regardless, unless both parties are honest and real, healing will be a procedure, rather than a helpful experience.

Blog Post And Images (c) 3/29/13 by Don Shetterly

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