Therapy is a Commitment to Yourself
Give yourself a minute to think about the many appointments that you make throughout your life. Now ask yourself how likely it is that you might cancel any of them, and which ones, and in what circumstances. In this blog we look at why Committing to Therapy is important.
Your GP appointment; your six-months dental check-up; that massage that you booked three weeks ago; a gym class; a surgery; a first date; a date you made with your partner; a catch-up with a friend; the afternoon you promised to spend with your child.
The appointments that you take the most seriously are probably the ones that you are less likely to cancel. Essentially, your level of commitment to your plans is based on how important these plans are to you.
Many of the problems we encounter in our lives are due to a lack of commitment or consistency. For example, we say to ourselves that we will go to the gym more often, but we keep cancelling our classes. We say that we are going to tidy up our house, but we procrastinate. We know we should study, but we don’t. We want to be consistent in our parenting, but we can’t. We don’t want to become angry at our children, but we can’t help it.
The more we make plans or promises but then fail to stick to them, the more we build a “negative view of self”. We come to perceive ourselves as lazy, incompetent, or a failure. Such an inner narrative is damaging to our mental health and can result in lack of life satisfaction. We might then seek therapy.
Psychological therapy has evolved over the last century and different models of therapy have been developed. While these models are varied in the way they approach treatment, there is something they share in common: they all acknowledge that commitment is a key to success.
Imagine this scenario:
Sally has suffered from anxiety since she was very young. When I ask Sally if she has seen therapists before, she says, “Oh yes, so many of them!” When I ask how many therapy sessions she has attended, she answers, “Something like 50”. Generally, after 50 sessions, a person makes noticeable progress. When I ask Sally if therapy has helped her, she says, “Not that much.” I then ask her how long she stayed with each therapist and how often she saw them, she said “Maybe ten sessions with each therapist, attending once a month or once every six weeks.”
Not only as a therapist with twenty years’ experience, but as a person who has herself benefited from hundreds of sessions of therapy, my first thought is that Sally’s lack of progress – or her perceived lack of progress – is due to inconsistency. If she had continued with a competent therapist whom she trusts, and for more sessions, she might well have felt that she has made substantial progress in addressing her anxiety.
Why Committing to Therapy is Important
Research from Scandinavian countries shows that people who commit to long-term therapy are 30% more productive in their lives, get sick less often, and are less prone to chronic illness.
Traditionally, people would enter into a sort of contract with their psychotherapist. The patient would commit to a regular booking. They also used to sign a contract with their therapist to commit to staying in therapy for a certain period – generally one year. Sometimes they would see their therapist two or three times a week. There are still psychoanalysts who use this model. And the truth is, there are huge advantages to undertaking such a commitment.
While I don’t want to go in depth in the advantages of long-term therapy, I would like to emphasise that a big part of its success is tied to the practice of commitment, consistency, and taking your therapy seriously – meaning that you reflect on what is discussed in a session, in between your sessions.
I strongly encourage you to discuss this with your therapist – how you can practice commitment to achieve the best results from your therapy.
And please continue reading my next blog about cancellations.