I Feel Better... I'm CURED!
This is a common mistake for people coming in for therapy. Namely, that they feel "better" and thus believe their work in therapy is done.
HEAR ME OUT!! I realize that sounds really silly, but keep reading to fully understand what I mean.
First off, of course, the goal is for you to "feel better." What that looks like is going to vary from person to person, but the general theme is the same. Feel better. Then keep feeling better (not exponentially, but consistently).
With that said, here's what can happen instead.
A client (coming in for relationship counseling or individual counseling) does some of the work and starts to feel better. They decide that it's not "worth it" to keep coming in because they feel better, so then they stop coming. Let me be clear in saying that I totally get it. I seriously do. I've notoriously been that person.
From the 'other side' (the therapist chair), here's what's actually going on.
People change in a cycle, basically. There's the "I don't have a problem" phase, then the "Maybe I've got a problem phase," followed by the "I'm going to change and here are some things I can do!" phase, then the "I'm making the change!!" phase, then followed by the "I'm sticking to my changes" phase, and finally followed by the "Oh no, I'm back to what I was doing" phase. Please re-read that paragraph. This is legitimately a theoretical cycle of change and it happens for everybody. And, when push comes to shove, people leave in the "I'm sticking to my changes" phase without staying for the "Oh no, I'm back to what I was doing" phase.
And do you know what that means?!
It means that some people will default to their previous behaviors (the ones they don't want), feel worse, and then drag their feet getting back into therapy! All together now, GGAAHHH!!!
I hate it for clients. I don't hate it for myself because it's not really my circus (or monkeys), but I don't like it because it's part of a process that gets short-changed (except people don't really realize that unless they've been through it or are trained in humans [i.e. a therapist]).
Here's the takeaway, because this blog post has become slightly disjointed.
1. Bring this up with your therapist. Ask them about the cycle of change and what that means for your work together.
2. When you're thinking about the work that you're doing and you realize you've felt better for the past two or three weeks, give therapy just a couple more sessions. We really do want to make sure things 'stick' and much of the habit research tells us that it takes baout 60 days (no, not 30; 60) for a new behavior/way of being to become habitual.
3. I PROMISE YOU, we don't want to see you forever. I sincerely mean that. So, if you got a little bit nervous reading this and thought to yourself (or out loud), "What the hell?! Why would I keep coming back if I'm feeling better?!" Trust me, it's not forever. We love you, but also want you to fly away to build your own nest and have your own eggs (I think this is a sign that I'm done talking and typing - ha!).