15 January 2017

posted in:

A Note to Clients Considering Therapy

Please note that if you are considering starting individual psychotherapy on a biweekly or monthly basis, I encourage you to reconsider.

First off, a therapeutic alliance (the relationship between a therapist and a client) is an important relationship. It’s a relationship where — above all — trust is key. To be able to process and explore the aspects of one’s life in full colour, I can’t imagine a client wanting anything but trust in their therapist; trust that the client feels heard, and understood; that their concerns are acknowledged; that they feel like they make sense to the therapist; that they can feel they can make mistakes in life and still feel supported if they choose to share them.

I cannot put it any simpler: the above takes time.

I offer an introductory consultation for individual clients that is free of charge. It allows people to see how I work and to get a feel for whether me and my approach are the right “fit” for them. It allows people to see how our work might look like, and that’s it. Too often, I am approached by clients who have never been in therapy before and wanting only intermittent sessions.

I get it.

Therapy is time. Therapy is money. Therapy is messy. It’s easy to think: if we can just treat therapy like a meeting with HR, or a phone call with our parents, or the monthly brunch with friends — things we can quantify into structured packets of exposure to others, situations we don’t have (or want) to experience more than we want. Wouldn’t that just be perfect?

So let me tell you what once-a-month therapy is like: imagine getting together with a friend you haven’t seen in 20 years, someone you feel like you could stand to connect with, to talk about yourself, your family and your relationships, about how the two of you have grown — maybe with a goal of drawing some instructive observations. And the two of you only have 50 minutes. My guess is that you will exchange pleasantries and probably go into a series of what are you/me doing, and the conversation — because it is so constrained by time, no fault of either party — will end up becoming very, to use a colloquialism, surfacey. That is once-a-month therapy. It largely ends up being more about playing catch-up than any kind of reflection or examination of our perspective, our emotional life.

Once-a-month therapy is certainly doable for clients who have already “done” therapy with me. To begin with, will have worked weekly, and then as the client feels able to support themselves we switch to biweekly. Monthly sessions are really just check-ups. And there is no way I can tell any new client from the outset when that will be and how that will look. This is why I ask all new clients to consider sustained, weekly therapy for at least four sessions until considering increasing the distance between sessions. I suggest this based upon the efficacy of working with someone with whom you can build trust in, building a mutual understanding of what your problems and challenges are.

Therapy is work, and it requires dedication.