I have found that while we can accomplish a lot in just 10-12 sessions, that not everyone who starts finishes. Thus, this three to four month commitment establishes clear parameters on what is expected. At this stage in my career I am only working with those who are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. We don’t get lasting results in brief periods. We don’t get great results by doing sloppy work. We don’t get BMW’s out of Yugo factories. A few weeks in the gym with your personal trainer isn’t going to create huge muscles or great weight loss, regardless of how bad you want it or how good your trainer is. Commit to the work and to the process and you commit to results.
I chose the 12 session mark both from:
- The research that most clients on average attend 8-12 sessions regardless of positive, neutral or negative experience/outcomes. That’s simply the time frame therapists generally have to do their work with most clients; and
- My own professional experience of observing the following pattern with most clients over the years:
- Sessions 1-2: The Honeymoon Phase where people got over the fear of going to counseling and then to their glad surprise hear new ideas and strategies that provide encouragement and hope. This energizes clients to try and gives them a running start;
- Sessions 3-4: Reality Sets In Phase where clients come back to the reality that they are still human, have pulses and that all their long-standing habits are still there in full force. They get discouraged. Most people if they haven’t given a commitment to a process of counseling give in at this point and stop going because “it isn’t working.”
- Sessions 5-9: The Work Phase where clients dig in and work past “the wall,” barriers and discouragement, start to get a bit more comfortable with the new skills and mindsets, and get the tender roots of new habits begin to form;
- Sessions 10-12: Tapering Phase where we’ve hit a stride and are now attending every other week as they are a little more confident in their skill sets and are able to practice more and more on their own with increasing success.
Of course, 12 sessions is the minimum. Some take twice as long. Some even longer. Every person and every situation is different. However, the above four phases are common and predictable for most people and you can expect something similar in your experience. Don’t get fixated on the number 12. It’s just a marker where we can gauge progress. It doesn’t have to mean everything needs to be “fixed” by then. Take the time you and your situation requires.
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