Why Does Therapy Take So Long?

Before I finished my initial training in social work, I read many accounts of psychotherapy.

I became fascinated by the journeys that others have taken, by their stumbling reach, their pain and fallibility (and that of their therapists!)

I remember reading one account of a psychoanalytic case in which the analyst describes his work with a middle-aged woman. As the work unfolds, she slowly comes to the realisation that she has spent most of her life in pain, unable to truly connect with herself or others or to feel the joy of creativity and laughter.

Before she can move on, she must grieve for what she has lost forever.

Perhaps the story of this woman on the brink of self-awareness and change can tell us why we are so obsessed with quick fixes.

None of us wants to be reminded of our own limitations or to grieve for our lost opportunities.

We want to live our lives free of the dread of mortality. This a natural desire - we can't live our lives constantly despairing in the knowledge that our lives - and we - will one day end.

The Therapeutic Relationship

For therapy to really reach - and heal the deepest parts of our trauma, we need to deeply commit to the therapy and to the therapeutic relationship.

In order for this special relationship to work, we need to develop trust. We also need to get beyond our defences to deal with our trauma and the underlying feelings that exist beneath our conscious awareness.

This is hard, challenging work.

It is not the work of one or even six sessions, but needs to take place over the context of months, perhaps years.

I realise that is scary - and it is not for everyone.

You can choose to work on discrete issues and develop strategies and tools in shorter term work and I would never dissuade anyone from seeking that opportunity.

But it is a good idea to be realistic about what can and can’t be done in short term therapy.

For people with a history of trauma and those who want to explore themselves more deeply, a long-term commitment to therapy is part of an investment in your life and well-being - what could be more important than that?


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