Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy, is a solution focused, goal orientated form of therapy. One of the most common questions therapists get asked in their initial meeting with clients is “How long before I get/feel better?” So, how long before clients actually do “get better”? This blog will try and answer that question with as much detail and specificity as possible.
Last year a client terminated with me after a few sessions, noting that they had not had a “eureka” moment in the 3 weeks we had been working together. The client believed that their energy, attention and finances would be better spent elsewhere. I was confused; no eureka moment in three 3 weeks, what had I done wrong, was I losing my therapist powers?
Upon hearing this I immediately called Pixie Incorporated. Pixie Inc. is a global corporation that supplies therapists around the world with magic fairy dust. Most clients are not aware of the fact that we use this product, (I am going out on a limb sharing this trade secret with you) but, the truth is, when clients are not looking we sprinkle them liberally with the dust. Typically speaking, at some point between six to twelve sessions the dust has built up to sufficient levels that clients are “cured”.
As you might imagine, this magic fairy dust has revolutionized the industry; client’s come in, have a chat, repeat several times and suddenly their anxiety, depression, anger – indeed all of their emotional distress vanishes. When I finally got through to customer services at Pixie Inc., I described my situation and they immediately alerted senior management. Naturally, they were concerned that a batch of fairy dust been contaminated or inadvertently swapped out for a generic version (I only buy the branded). In all fairness to them, they DHL’d a new batch over that night and credited my account. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to try the new batch on that client but I certainly noticed a marked improvement in all my other clients, who, in no time at all, we are all “Happy as Larry”, as the saying goes.
If this were only the case, dear reader! We would all be a lot happier. It is a lovely fantasy, but until Pixie Inc. and the fairy dust actually escape from my mind and into reality, we are going to have to get and feel better the old fashioned way. Research has shown that to do things instinctively, you need to repeat that behaviour around 10,000 times. Take a second to think about something that you do instinctively that you are good at. It could be anything - from driving a car, playing a sport, working at a job or training at the gym. What is the common denominator in this? I know you’re screaming the answer at the screen right now - yes, that’s right PRACTICE!!!
In most cases, the better you are at something correlates to the amount of practice you’ve had. Take Yoga for example. I am extraordinarily inflexible, only recently have I been able to touch my toes. I tried yoga several times, different teachers, different studios, different types, and I’m still useless. So frustrated with my lack of progress, I gave up. Obviously, it is the fault of the teacher or the studio, if they were teaching yoga correctly; I would downward dogging, like there’s no tomorrow.
This way of thinking is exactly why I’ll never be good a yoga. I need to accept that the progress may not be easy, that I am going to have to practice outside of class and that I need to work and take responsibility for achieving my own goals! Nothing that is truly satisfying comes easy, and it is exactly the same in therapy. The process is going to take work, learning to tolerate uncomfortable emotions and practicing new ways of thinking and behaving, perhaps unwiring years of behaviour patterns. The sooner clients accept this the faster they get “better”. So to answer my original question, the length of time before you have that eureka moment is entirely in your hands and dependent on how hard you’re willing to WERQ!