Avoiding Multiple First Therapy Sessions
Engaging in therapy is not easy. Even when one has arrived at the knowledge that a problem is too great to solve alone, asking for help is tough for even the most courageous among us. If a person can overcome that initial block, the questions that arise can sometimes be even more overwhelming. Does this mean I am defective or weird? What happens in a therapist’s office? How do I choose one? These are only a few of the questions one often considers, and part of what makes the thought of therapy as enjoyable as being dragged on your knees through baking pavement.
My experience working with many individuals, couples and families has led to identifying a few common patterns that, in my observation, get in the way of my clients getting the help they need and making therapy effective. One such pattern is the repetition of first sessions.
As a solution-focused and strategic practitioner, I try to help my clients understand that a one-hour session is not the place to cure the COWs (crisis of the week) or to decide who is right or wrong, good or bad. I want them to understand that the real work is done during the week, in the time between sessions, in the laboratory of their own environment. What we do in our one-hour session is reflect on and process our work during the week. Although it is not always simple, it doesn’t have to get very complicated. The more work you do during the week, the more productive our sessions are going to be.
What often happens when clients don’t do the real work outside of therapy is that we engage in multiple getting-to-know-each-other-sessions, never delving into any of the deeper issues and resolutions. Participants become frustrated at the lack of movement and they abandon therapy without ever having fully engaged. This, of course, is not due to deficiency or mal intent on their part. Contrary to some beliefs, therapy is not for the weak!
Many of my clients report much more engagement and satisfying progress when they actively do the work outside the therapy session, notwithstanding the “scraped knees” it took to get there. One way I ask my clients to avoid multiple first sessions, is by doing the following:
- Purchase a one-subject notebook in which you will write a reflection about our session, to be reviewed at the start of our next session.
- You will also do some writing about events that occurred which you found pleasant or unpleasant, what you thought about these events, and how you felt about them due to your thinking. This will help us analyze patterns of thinking that may create problems or make them worse.
- I will also suggest that you research certain subjects relevant to what we come up with in our sessions. Again, this is with the idea of empowering you to find and implement your solutions, not my idea of a solution.
- A final feature is that you get my work cell number and I encourage you to text or call in real time, when problems occur (within certain time boundaries, of course). Helping you work through difficulties in real time, allows me to help you re-wire your patterns of thinking and reacting to problems. It also helps you avoid many more problems you may create while reacting to the present one.
My goal as a helper is to move you through the stages of change quickly and effectively. In other words, my job is to make myself obsolete in your life as soon as possible. Your active engagement and participation will help.