Q&A:  Why does therapy seem to take so long?

Every month, I want to take some time to respond to a real, honest and authentic question that I have heard in my work with individuals, couples or families.  My hope is that reading these questions and responses will give you encouragement for your own situation and reassurance that you are not alone. 


Q:  I've been in therapy for a long time (or at least what seems like a long time to me).  While some things in life feel better, I don't feel quite ready to end therapy.  Why does therapy take so long, and how do I make it go faster?


I think I hear this question from my clients about once a week, and I get it:  therapy is a significant investment of time, money, energy and effort.  Some days feel really encouraging and you start seeing and feeling "progress."  Other times, you find yourself facing the same issues over and over again, wondering if your therapist is actually doing anything to help you change and heal.

 

Over the next few weeks, we're going to look at the therapy process in general as well as some practical ways to help you get the most out of your therapy experience.  

 

In the meantime, let's start by reflecting on some different aspects of your therapy process thus far.  I hope these questions start giving you more clarity about why the process feels like it's taking longer than expected:

 

- Do you know why you're still in therapy?  Oftentimes, we start therapy for a specific reason:  anxiety, depression, relationship struggles, difficulties with kids, etc.  As time goes on, we work through a variety of issues that perhaps we didn't realize were in need of addressing.  Our original "problem" may be better, but we found a whole other set of problems waiting to be solved.  I encourage you to talk with your therapist regularly about how therapy has helped thus far and/or what therapy goals you still have.

 

- Do you feel safe with your therapist?  Sure, he/she may be friendly and personable, but do you feel comfortable being honest, open and vulnerable with this person?  Does your therapist do/not do things that you find upsetting or frustrating or irritating?  These are important conversations to have.  For me, I always want my clients to be as direct with me as possible about any concerns, fears or struggles they are experiencing with me or with the process.

 

- Do you understand what therapy is intended to do?  Whether you are working with a therapist who uses EFT, CBT, EMDR, play therapy, psychoanalysis, or something else, it's important that you know why your therapist does what he/she does.  Ask questions, do some research, and be an active participant in the process.

 

- Do you desire growth, change and healing?  I don't mean this to sound flippant or rhetorical; we all need to ask ourselves this question.  I once heard someone say, "Yeah I live in hell, but at least I know all the street names."  Oftentimes, we've become so familiar with our pain and suffering that to make changes would be even more uncomfortable.  We must desire and commit to pursuing health and wholeness, or else therapy won't do a whole lot.  And if you're not there, that's ok; it's just important to name where you are.

 

More to come,

Alair


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Alair Olson, M.A.

 Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

(MFC#86504)

 

South Mission Valley | San Diego, CA  92108

858.634.0302 | therapy@alairolson.com