“So, how long is this (therapy) going to take?”
I am often asked by the clients with the above question. Some of the clients who asked this question because they have not been in therapy before and needed to get an idea about this process. On the other hands, some of the clients have been in treatment for few times or have been in treatment for a while. When they asked this question, it often communicates their concerns about the therapy process has been taking too long.
So, how long Is this going to take to “get rid of” your issues, say depression, anxiety, or relationship issues?
Well, this is a million dollar question, and I wish I have a right answer.
If this is the first time you come to therapy, the answer is:
“There is no definite answer about how long it is going to take. It depends on the issues and the history of this issue you want to work at. “
As this being said, you should be so proud of yourself for being so brave to walk into therapy. It is much easier to go to the liquor store at the corner of your house. It is much easier to engage in the retail therapy or casino therapy. It is so much easier to vent to your friends and family. It is so much harder to face your issues. This is the first step to learn to love yourself.
If you have been in therapy for several times or a while, there are usually two reasons.
First, we all can use some therapy at some transition of our lives, such as newlywed, first-time parents, and/or losing loved ones.
Psychotherapy is a way to increase your coping skills in your transition to another stage in your life. The way I see psychotherapy in these transitions is like upgrading your computer system. If you don’t upgrade your system, you can’t run your software, and your computer just becomes slower. The worst, you can’t keep up with your work and/or exchange the information with other people. So, therapy is like this: upgrading your software to keep up with the demands of life.
Second, there are some issues in life require you a long time to face it, such as depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
When my clients who have been in therapy asked me this question, what I hear is not “how long is this going to take?” but “I am exhausted.”
I know, it’s hard to take care of these symptoms if you have been taking care of them for a long time. It’s not easy to go to therapy week after week and not feeling positive progress. It is even more exhausting to feel the positive changes are short-lived, and you are back to the negative emotions.
It’s not just exhausting but also hopeless and powerless. After all, we, as human beings, we like to see “problems” or “symptoms” resolved. After all, who didn’t want to be “better and better?”
At the same time, as human beings, can we ever be perfect? For me, the exhausted feelings about taking care of your “issues/symptoms” are the test to yourself as to how you truly love yourself.
Do you love yourself enough that no matter how exhausted you feel, you still have the patience to take care YOU?
Do you love yourself enough that no matter how exhausted you feel, you are willing to do it as long as it needed?
Do you love yourself enough that no matter how exhausted you feel, you can still look in the mirror and say to yourself: I will not give up on taking care of you no matter how long it is going to make?
By all means, I don’t mean that you should suffer continuously. Here are few things you can try when you feel the exhaustion of being in therapy too long to continue.
1) Evaluate your treatment goals.
When my clients talked to me about the exhaustion of being in therapy, this is the first step I would do. Instead of being controlled by the exhaustion, let’s evaluate our treatment goals.
“When you first started therapy, what brought you in? What were the symptoms that made you seek therapy?”
“ Now, on the scale 1 to 10, 10 means horrible, 1 means no bother at all, how would you rate each symptom?
“Compared to when you first started, how have these symptoms improved or worsened?”
“ Let’s prioritize these symptoms now. Which one should we work on first to bring the overall “feelings of exhaustion” down?”
2) Evaluate what have you tried.
This is one of the important evaluation I regular do when I see a new client who was in therapy before. I also regularly talk to my clients to assess what he/she has tried and what’s working and what’s not working. If not, why?
“What have you and your previous therapist tried?”
“How’s that helpful or not helpful??
“ What are the things that you found helpful in therapy that is still helpful?”
“If it was helpful to a certain degree but not able to remove the symptoms, why do you think that’s the case? What needs to happen to make these symptoms go away?”
3) Try a new therapist or new therapy method
The therapist is a human being, too! That means a therapist is not perfect! We all have our limitations and blindspot. A lot of times, I regularly evaluate the treatment goals with my clients because we (I and the clients) can get complacent. If we don’t regularly evaluate the progress, therapy becomes a check-in for your weekly life update.
You can also try a new therapy method. I have a lot of clients tried Cognitive Behavioral Therapy before. They often reported that it was helpful to help them change how they perceive the situation but somehow, they still feel the same way about the similar situation. There are more therapy methods that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, such as EMDR. Give it a try and see how it goes.
No matter what you do, remember, it is YOU who you cannot give up because it is your life. I often ask my client to try this exercise by themselves at home or with me in the office.
Please look at yourself in the eyes in the mirror and repeat after me. “I, _________ (your first name), take you __________ (your middle name), as my lifelong partner, for better, for worse, in sickness, in health, till death do us apart.”
Can you promise this to yourself, in sickness and for worse, never give up on yourself? After all, your first name and your middle name shared the same last name and the same social security number, right?