When you start therapy, you want it to succeed. That is why you made the effort to attend therapy, and are willing to discuss how your situation can improve.
Therapists also want therapy to succeed – that is why they work as therapists. It is wonderful to be told by a former client that their issue is now resolved, and they may even provide one or two referrals as well. It’s good for business to help clients succeed.
However, some factors can make it more likely that the therapy may fail, or not succeed as well as it it could. The good news is that they are all within your control.
People seem unwilling to try therapy for the following reasons (there may be more!):-
It involves work!
Therapy involves work both in the session, and after the session in our daily life. It works best when we get involved with the process, thinking and considering the answers to any questions that the therapist asks. These questions can prompt us to uncover aspects that we may not have realised before, or look at events in a different way. The client is the expert in their own life, and the expert in what they want from therapy. The therapist will help as much as they can, but clients are a partner in the process!
Be prepared for homework or tasks between sessions, as therapists often ask you to do this. It could be as simple as listening to a hypnotherapy recording between appointments. There can also be other tasks between appointments, which would have been discussed with your therapist. As an example, if you are seeking help for social anxiety, you might agree with your therapist that you are going to speak to one new person per day until your next appointment.
Related to the point above, we are ideally ready to talk about our feelings and thoughts in therapy. Be honest, and say it like it is, not as we believe we should think and feel. This requires trust in the therapist, and feeling comfortable with them. Many therapists offer a free phone conversation to find out if their approach suits prospective clients, and we can use this to check that we can relate to them and work with them.
Some clients are concerned that hypnotherapy (in particular) may involve re-living past traumas. This is not necessarily the case. Remember, you are in control of what you discuss. There are also several therapy methods which allow clients to be helped without disclosing specific details to the therapist. As therapy progresses, clients can find that unpleasant experiences from the past can become easier to discuss.
“I don’t discuss problems with outsiders”
Many of us were told by our parents that issues are resolved within the family, and not discussed with others. However – what if the problem is within the family, or there are no family members which whom we feel we can discuss the problem? Even if there are family members available to speak to us, such discussions can result in entrenched viewpoints, and cause family rifts.
Therapists are trained to help us find what we want to do in a specific situation, and are impartial and objective. They may suggest some possible alternative views on a situation, but the client decides the final action.
Fear of change
Change can be scary, and fear of change is common. Many people would prefer to live with the known (imperfect) situation of feeling anxious, experiencing phobic reactions, remaining in an unhappy relationship rather than working through changing their relationships and thinking styles.
A good therapist will help you work out what you want, and help you create a plan for change – a roadmap – to get you where you want to be in life. They will also support, encourage, and challenge you when required.
Change is the only constant in life.Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher
As stated above, change will happen whether we choose it or not. By taking control of the change, we can help ensure it is a positive change for us. If there is a chance that you will feel more confident, less sad, and anxious, and more in control of your life will you take it?
Concerned about expense and length of time to achieve goals
Many people are concerned about getting into therapy because they feel it is expensive, or will take a long time to show results. These two factors (cost and time taken) are linked, as if therapy is faster it may well cost less overall.
Of course, therapists have to support themselves and thus do have to charge for their time. However, therapy can be more affordable than many people realise. Several of the major Australian health funds offer cover for hypnotherapy, and some offer considerable payments towards each session. Many therapists offer packages of sessions at a discount, which can make them more affordable. Some therapists also offer discounts for concession card holders.
The time taken to achieve results in therapy can be an artificial psychological barrier as well. Most therapy sessions are at least an hour, and clients may have one session every one or two weeks. However, is this really a lot of time? We have 168 hours in a week (and 336 hours per two weeks). One hour out of this is not very much! To make therapy even more convenient, many therapists (including myself) offer sessions online, which even removes any travelling time to the clinic.
It will almost certainly take more than one hypnotherapy session for the full results to be seen. Typically, hypnotherapy can take up to 6 sessions to show full results (sometimes more, sometimes fewer). However, very importantly, you should notice a positive change after each session. Be aware of the shiny allure of the ‘single session cure’, and also aware that if an issue has taken years to develop, it will probably take more than an hour to fully resolve.
Potential clients can also think that therapy has to go on for months and months, however this is not necessarily true for hypnotherapy. Dr. Alfred A. Barrios conducted a survey of psychotherapy literature. He discovered that:
- 93% recovery rate after average of 6 sessions of hypnotherapy
- 72% recovery rate after average of 22 sessions of behavioural therapy
- 38% recovery rate after average of 600 sessions of psychoanalysis
So – this study shows that hypnotherapy was the fastest of the therapies studied (6 sessions compared to 22 and 600 sessions), and worked for the most people as well (93% compared to 72% and 38%). When interpreting this, remember that is a study from 1970, so practices in the various therapies will have changed since then.
A bad experience in the past
Many potential clients are ‘put off’ because they had a bad experience with therapy in the past. Therapists are all different (they are people after all!), and there are also multiple therapeutic approaches, even within hypnotherapy (parts therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, regression, etc.).
Just because we have an unsatisfactory experience with a specific therapist in the past does not mean that we will find the same with another therapist. Many therapists offer a free phone conversation where clients can check that they could work well with that person.
Feel there is a stigma surrounding therapy
There (unfortunately) can still be some stigma around getting help through therapy, and mental illness. Seeking help through therapy does not mean that you have a mental illness. The good news is that as more and more famous people (singers, musicians, politicians, sports personalities) discuss their mental health issues, it is more acceptable to seek help early.
There can be more stigma attached to therapy if the client comes from certain social and cultural groups, but thankfully this is lessening as time goes on.
We may well know someone who has had therapy, but they may not have disclosed this to their friends. Even if no-one in our group of friends or relatives has had therapy, it is possible to connect and find out more by simply searching online. Many blogs are available where people detail the benefits they experienced in therapy.
Its also worth knowing that many therapists turn to therapy to resolve their own personal issues, as we know how helpful it can be in creating a clear vision for the future.
Think it looks weak to have therapy
Another stigma which is thankfully diminishing. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. Emergency personnel (doctors, nurses, firefighters, ambulance personnel, etc.) are offered therapy to overcome stress related to their work, and increasingly this is becoming an accepted part of dealing with traumatic incidents.
I volunteered in the State Emergency Service for ten years, and therapy was also offered to us if we experienced unpleasant incidents, e.g. while searching for missing people.
Strong people can ask for help!
“Medication will work more quickly”
Medications for psychological issues can be very helpful as we know, and if you have been prescribed medication, you should continue taking it under the supervision of your doctor.
However, medications do not work equally well for all people, and sometimes need to be taken for a while before positive effects appear. Drugs can also have side effects, like headache, weight gain or sexual dysfunction.
Compared to this, a study of hypnotherapy in 2018 found hypnotherapy had no serious side effects. Hypnotherapy also trains clients to have more control of how they think, feel and behave in situations. It gives clients more choices – more “tools” in their toolbox if you like. They rely on their new capabilities rather than medication that they need to take regularly.
If a client is taking medication, I encourage them to continue this while we work on giving them the capability and skills to enjoy life. They may then discuss decreasing their medication under the supervision of their doctor when ready to do so.
The relationship that you create with your therapist can allow permanent change to happen for the better.
“I can solve it myself”
If we can solve it ourselves, why is the problem still there? Whatever method we are using to cope or “solve” the problem are probably not working. It could be that we are using methods that worked when we were younger (see blogpost on this topic), but they don’t work anymore.
We might look up answers on the internet. The internet can be a great source of information, but it’s not always easy to know who wrote the information, and if it’s from a reputable source. Anyone can set up a website with an official sounding name, but we have no idea if they know what they are talking about. Some information can be well meaning, but dangerous and misleading.
Other ways of coping (or “solving it”) can involve alcohol and drugs, which can lead to further issues, and more serious problems later on.
“Why should I pay someone to listen to me – I’ve got friends”
Friends can give great advice, and many of us have had issues resolved by a long chat with a friend! Issues with relationships, where our friends know both us and the person involved, can benefit from a second opinion. Our friends also know our positive traits, and may be able to give us more confidence.
Unfortunately, friends are not objective, and may encourage us in doing something not in our best interests – just because they are our friend and want to support us.
Friends may not want to discuss issues multiple times, and may get weary of discussing the issue if they do not think we are taking their advice. This means that we may feel pressured to do something against our better judgement.
Some “friends” may also gossip about what we tell them, causing further relationship problems.
In contrast, a therapist is objective, and may suggest a course of action but will let the client make the final decision. Therapists are prepared for us to discuss the same issue multiple times if it is slow to resolve. And of course, therapists are ethically bound to confidentiality. There are a few common sense exceptions – if they think someone is in danger for instance – but in almost all cases they have to keep their notes (and anything that we tell them) confidential.
Overall, be aware that therapy has an end. The aim is to empower you to act differently in specific situations, realise that you do not need a substance to which you were addicted, change a habit, etc.
The therapist should be able to provide a plan of what will be covered in therapy, and agree with you the point at which therapy will stop. This could be (e.g.) when you can feel confident giving a presentation at work, when you have stopped smoking, when you can sleep through the night, or when you can relax when stressful events happen in your life.
Lisa Billingham is a qualified hypnotherapist and NLP Practitioner. She is a Member of the Australian Hypnotherapists Association. See here for her current work locations.
If you would like to discuss if a hypnotherapy session could help you, make an appointment, or simply wish to find out more information, please phone or email her on 0403 932311 or email@example.com. All with no obligation.