I am often asked this question and find it often difficult to answer. Psychotherapy can be a life changing experience for many people, those who wish to change fixed habits or understand their behaviours.
It can be for personal or professional reasons that people enquire, however it is generally because they are unhappy with their lives, in some way.
Psychotherapy needs to be an investment by both the client and the therapist. It is only in that investment, of time, energy (and money!) that the process can begin. The therapist no matter how skilled cannot ‘do’ the work for the client. I do not use ‘big sticks’ to enforce change in my client and I know of no other ethical practitioner who could or would.
I believe there is a general process that clients experience when in therapy.
Initially there will be an urgent need to be ‘fixed’ or cured. It takes a while for the realisation that the work can be long, laborious and deep seated. If someone has lived their lives for thirty, forty years in a certain way, with fixed beliefs about themselves and the world, I’m unable to ‘magic’ the pain out of their lives. Often I wish I could and I don’t possess that ability.
There maybe a fear when they believe they are growing too reliant upon the therapist. There needs to be a ‘therapeutic alliance’ for the work to take place.
Often clients reach an ‘impasse’, the place of being ‘stuck’, it is there that the change occurs. (See my video on ‘the paradoxical theory of change’)
There will be times when clients have a ‘blip’, revert to old habits. This is a wonderful opportunity to practice, how to manage these blips, should they occur when they have left therapy. It also re-enforces the work to date.
My vested interest is always to have the client having enough self support to leave therapy, knowing and living with the change that has occurred.
What do other practitioners and clients think?
Karen F Burke 01.07.12