How Long Will It Take?

This is often one of the first questions in the mind of a prospective client when they meet a therapist for the first time. The therapist often gives an answer along the lines that each “case” is individual, but how often does this answer sound like a platitude?

This is often one of the first questions in the mind of a prospective client when they meet a therapist for the first time. The therapist often gives an answer along the lines that each “case” is individual, and it relies on the motivation and readiness of the client, and the quality of relationship that is created between them and the therapist. Often this answer sounds like a platitude.

Of course, usually a general guideline can be given from the therapist’s experience. The client may find this ‘average’ length of time encouraging or quite the opposite. The salient question here maybe is how long the client feels/hopes “it” will take, and what exactly “it” is — what their sense of “it” is when they come — maybe the development of coping skills, maybe a complete recovery from depression involving a certain degree of fundamental change.

This is the moment in which I feel it necessary to make it clear, in my work, that this is a collaborative, teamwork kind of relationship. It is not the case that I am going to “do my stuff” on the client, which will take more or less six months, and it is not the case that it will take a set amount of time for the “drug” to start working.

I am lucky in my private practice to be able to offer open ended counselling, I have learnt, though, that stressing the open ended nature of counselling, while it gives a certain sense of security, may also give the impression that the client may become dependent, and the process will be interminable. It is also not always the case that clients have open ended resources to pay for counselling, and this is something that is worth being open about from the start.

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Motivation and readiness are paramount, and so too is the support network available to the client, and their ability to marshal resources. The process of “therapy” is not something that happens in the sessions only. So a lot of factors do not depend on me as a therapist, but the way in which the client is received, so crucial to their motivation, does.

The attitude I would like to convey to my clients is that we will go, together, in the direction of whatever “it” is, and that we will get there as swiftly as possible.

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