Myths about psychotherapy: Number 4
The Importance of Contracting.
One of the first questions clients ask about their psychotherapy is ‘how long will it take?’ Well, people suffering anxiety or depression often begin to find some relief within the first two to four months of psychotherapy. And people with deeper issues such as trauma, relationship issues, or sexual problems often require longer.
So, given that psychotherapy works to the completion of a psychotherapeutic contract, the question then becomes when this completion should be. Well, your psychotherapist should always have a contract. This contract sets out your goal for psychotherapy and sets a date for completion or review. When this contract is met, you will either wish to come out of psychotherapy or to set a new contract. When you first enter psychotherapy, you may not be clear what your contract is. In this case you and your psychotherapist will work on this and agree your contract together.
Now, psychotherapy depends on frank, probing and revealing discussions that raise deep and sometimes troubling feelings. To allow these discussions to take place, your psychotherapist will provide a safe space for you to hold these discussions and for you to have your feelings. In this safe space you may come to express yourself more clearly than ever before. You may come to get in touch with and to understand your true feelings. In time you may, in this safe space, work out how to use your understanding together with your true feelings to bring about healing.
Taking all of these considerations into account means that as you proceed with your psychotherapy you should be evaluating where you have reached and whether you are close to meeting, or have met, your agreed contract. And, of course, your psychotherapist will help you to do this. You should always feel able to ask them how things are going and to talk about how far along the road you are.
Once the concerns that prompted you to start psychotherapy are under control and once the concerns that were bothering you are no longer weighing you down then it may be time to think about ending your psychotherapy. If you are feeling confident about your life and now have tools that work for you, then it is probably a good time for you to end your psychotherapy.
And please, if you have had a successful outcome, make sure the end of your psychotherapy is a positive experience. Just as everyone’s psychotherapy is different, so every ending is different. Together with your psychotherapist, acknowledge your release from what was troubling you. Psychotherapy can help us to be free, to belong and to get along. If this has happened to you then why not share this with your psychotherapist?