Counselling - the when, and how long it lasts...
Updated: Jul 8, 2021
I get asked a lot by the people I support 'how long will it take for me to feel myself again or get better'. It is a question that is almost impossible to answer; although there are published guidelines.
I also often hear comments such as 'well I only feel down, that's not a reason to ask for help' or 'my family/friends told me just to focus on the good things in my life, I don't need counselling, I just need to be more positive' or 'there are other people worse off than me'. Some people just don't feel they should ask for support or they fear the social stigma attached having mental health problems so they avoid getting the help they need. I thought it might help to provide some guidance from my perspective.
Let me focus on the when first...
During life we all need a bit of help sometimes; life has a way of knocking us off track even when things have been going smoothly. It can be hard to know when you need that extra help, what type of help you need, who to go to and what to say. Sometimes it might feel like you are the only one feeling the way you feel. You might not have any conscious idea why you are feeling low, anxious, sad, angry, lethargic/unmotivated etc (this is really common with the people I support). Whether you feel you are just having a few bad days or you have a mental health problem, you don't need to cope alone. You may have family, friends, colleagues that you trust enough to open up with. There are many free support services you can also call (Samaritans, Mind, The Mix, ChildLine etc). You may also feel you would benefit from some counselling or therapy.
There are online counselling directories that provide you with specific therapists. You can search for people using your personal criteria (location, approach, gender etc). Most therapists or counsellors offer a free initial consultation. I offer this service for a number of reasons. Firstly it is important for you as the client to know you can feel comfortable to open up to your therapist and secondly it is important for me to know that I can support you. This initial consultation is the beginning of a journey, it needs to 'strike the right tone'. The initial consultation is enough for some people, opening up about your feelings can bring a sense of relief and ease some of the unhelpful feelings you might have had.
You might struggle with opening up during the initial consultation. It might be a good idea to write down how you are feeling and send an email ahead of your session (or read through it on your call) so that the therapist can help you open up and explain how you feel and what you would like from the sessions.
Simply, everyone can benefit from some therapy, not matter what the therapeutically approach. If you continue to struggle with you mental health or unhelpful/negative emotions, speak up, you are not alone. I can guarantee that just sharing these feelings and thoughts will help.
Now I'm going to focus on the how long...
The how long depends on many factors, you as an individual (what you need and want), the approach the therapist uses, your circumstances (the underlying presenting problem), whether you are really ready for change (change is scary and hard and some people are just not ready when they initially come to see me). With some people they see improvement in as little as 1-2 months, with others that might have deep routed trauma it will and does take longer. I use different methods (approaches) with everyone, because everyone is different.
Something you should always remember is that you are in charge, ultimately it is your decision as to when to stop therapy. I have supported people who have been to see me once and people who have had more complex issues that I am still supporting after 8 months. I have also had people who I supported years ago come back for some 'top up therapy' almost like a bit of a maintenance plan.
Therapy is not just about 'fixing' one off issues for me. It is about regularly prioritising my mental health so that I can show up as my best self no matter where life takes me.
Much Love Jo xxxx