Does therapy really work - part two

Post treatment maintenance

As an ex business world consultant, I find myself always seeking out the more concrete business case for the work I and my clients are doing. Hence now as Wimbledon couples therapist I want to know what really works in therapy, how it works, and how to keep it working. Essentially how do we all get the best from this device called therapy?

Today I want to look at how we keep our hard earned therapeutic gains.

Okay you and your therapist are delighted to find you're now doing and thinking in different and more useful ways. I know this time. It is the moment the client comes in all excited. Last week they did it differently. And there is a wonderment in their eyes. Suddenly life seems to beneficently hold out all its possibilities to them. It is a truly magical moment, often after much effort and at times when it seemed that there was no hope. Life has changed and all is going well and you could confidentially say; ‘job done’ - I am now different, and end your therapy. However this might be a mistake.

Therapeutic maintenance

This phase of work is often missed. It is the phase where you keep supporting your change until it has really taken root. And how do you know it has taken root? Only be experiencing over time a series of really difficult situations, when you are tired, hungry, over worked etc., etc., that would normally have triggered all your old ways, but found you have stayed with the new. 

The problem is that such change is not akin to getting fit, test it. Push yourself. Go find a really stressful week and stick with the change there. Update where one system is swapped out for another. The old ways are still there and we are all susceptible to reverting to using them. Particularly when we are highly stressed. So while us therapists are always excited when we hear of a client's change, we are overjoyed when we hear that they stayed with the change despite the week from hell.

Some tips from research to ensure change ‘stays’.

  • Change that sticks is your change, not your therapists. We are just there to facilitate and encourage your efforts. So be clear you really get how you changed yourself. After all you were the one who decided to try therapy.
  • Like getting fit, test it. Push yourself. Go find a really stressful week and stick with the change there.
  • Be proud of it. Tell your partner/family, inspire your best friends. Introduce the new you to them. Ensure they get that you don’t what them engaging with the old you any more. 

And lastly, what do I do if I relapse?

Mmmm. Perhaps this is the wrong question? Try instead, 'what do I do when I relapse’. Actually this is my last tip. Setbacks are a normal part of life. They are not be feared, but to be expected and planed for. When you fall off your bike, you should expect to scrape your knee. Dust yourself off and get back on again. The real therapeutic learning is not just how to do ‘it’ differently, but what to do when you slip back.

As always this is Christopher MacGovern wishing you well with; “talk to your therapist”.

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