ball of string representing how long will it take

One of the questions I get asked in the early stages of working with clients, is ‘How long will it take to get better?’ When you are suffering from anxiety and depression, coping with a phobia or dealing with stressful situations, you want to get better as quickly as possible.

The traditional view of psychiatry is that you go and see your ‘shrink’ every Tuesday afternoon over a period of 2, maybe 3 years. You lie on her coach and tell her everything. How your mother didn’t love you. You father dropped you on the head when you were 6. All the traumatic experiences you endured, and of course every sexual encounter you have ever had. Through this the therapist has you come to some realisation that immediately makes you see the world differently. However once you often have that realisation you still need to work with it and come to terms with it.

Two or three years is a long time to be in pain, or confusion, or under stress. During this time, life goes on. You still have to go to work. There are children to care for. You have a relationship to maintain.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could just change instantly?

Sometimes it happens like that naturally. No therapists, no interventions, no couch. You wake up one day and you think ‘right, that’s enough of that’ and you become a different person. Sometimes there is a flash of realisation – a St. Paul on the way to Damascus moment. Other times it is really hard to know what made the difference. A small change of habit can be very powerful too: daily meditation; breathing exercises, taking up running; even getting up an hour earlier..

If some people can change overnight, why does it take years for others?

One possible reason is your ‘expectations’. You expect it to take a long time, so it does. There are several different ‘reasons’ why we get the expectation that it will be a long process.

  1. You got told you would be in therapy years.
    The traditional view of therapy comes from films, books and the actual experiences of many people. Some people talk about their therapist like their bank manager or their accountant. It is a long-term relationship. It’s also just nice to have someone you can trust that you can talk to about anything.
  2. Your problem is far too big, significant or overwhelming to overcome it any quicker.
    Sometimes when we have some issue, particularly if we have been experiencing it for a long time, we assume that it will take a long time to overcome. Even when we look for a quick fix like hypnosis, or Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) we suspect on some level that it won’t work quickly for us because we are too far gone, or too bad.
  3. You don’t actually want to get better, even though you think you do.
    There is a factor in change work called ‘Secondary Gain’. Sometimes a behaviour or a way of dealing with things has a hidden benefit of which you are not aware. This is a part of my early questioning of new clients. I want to find out if there is a benefit to the behaviour that might hold a client back from changing too soon, or at all. If there is, then it helps to find other ways to fulfill that benefit.

How long do YOU think it will take?

Sometimes I like to turn the question around and ask the client, what their expectations are. ‘How long do YOU think it will take?

They may say a year, or six months. They rarely say a week or a month. Part of my job is to manage their expectations. I could say, ‘it will just take one short session’, and in some cases this can actually be true. It is a risk though, because then someone who needs a little more time, or has not revealed something on a deeper level, could go away disappointed and feeling that the therapy has failed when they just need more time.

In my experience, six sessions can be a bit of a magic number for many. It can be very effective to raise expectations this high. It is often a surprise that I think it can be this quick, but six sessions is long enough that the client can adjust to the idea of rapid change.

It is based on experience too, the vast majority of my clients do experience at least some level of improvement in this time, and for many it is enough for them to be significantly better. If there is more to do, or the client simply wants to peel back more of the layers of self-awareness, then we can go on working together. On the other hand, if they recover more quickly, it’s hardly something to complain about, is it?

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anger issues - a picture of the incredible hulkAnger issues are among the most common themes that come up when working with neurolinguistic programming (NLP) clients.  Often when I meet someone for the first time, clients will be concerned that they are having angry outbursts or feel pent-up feelings of anger. They can’t understand why this is happening. Small things, which you would not normally find more than slightly  irritating, take on an inappropriate level of emotion.  The tendency to lose your temper can lead to difficulties in your relationships, social life, and also at work. Clients have found themselves Read more »

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teddy bear on a cold winter day.Most people have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the condition that is believed to occur during the months of short days, when we are less exposed to vitamin D and this, in consequence, results in low mood or even depression in the Winter months. It’s a definite thing and there are various ways you can help yourself if you have this condition – daylight lamps, vitamin supplements, or just going away to somewhere sunny (I personally would advocate the last of these if you can afford it!).

There are lots of reasons why we can feel more down and less motivated in the Winter however, and while I wouldn’t rule out SAD, I do think that the awareness of this condition can steal some of our power. There are several very common influences on our mood that tend to occur more commonly at this time of year:Read more »

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AeroplaneFew things recharge your batteries more than a holiday There are many wonderful places to visit in the UK, but the sometimes unreliable weather means that many of us choose to spend some time abroad.  It can be wonderful to relax by the sea in a sunny location, or take part in exotic and thrilling activities such as water sports, climbing, ski-ing or just exploring the culture and traditions of a new place.

For many though, the attraction of the holiday is jaded by the prospect of the journey there. So many people suffer to a greater or lesser extend with fears and phobias around travel, and probably a fear of flying is the most common.Read more »

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Woman sleeping naturally

One of the most common side effects I come across when I deal with clients, whether over the phone, or face-to-face, is that many of them are really struggling to get a deep natural sleep every night.

I completely get it, because I used to have that problem myself.

You know how it feels when you Read more »

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discarded cigaretteWe all know that there are a plethora of solutions and approaches to smoking cessation – from smoke aversion to nicotine replacement, from hypnosis to acupuncture.  Naturally the scientific world, Government health organisations and charities are very keen to study the various approaches and pin down exactly which ones are the most effective.

There are a host of studies, and the outcomes vary slightly from one to another. Hypnosis, which is my favoured approach, (although I combine it with cognitive behavioural therapy and neurolinguistic programming) comes out quite well overall, usually significantly higher than nicotine replacement for example.

But I have to admit that there is something that consistently out-performs all the other techniques!
Read more »

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close-up of surgeon performing gastric band operationPerhaps the most radical approach to weight-loss is the surgical implanting of a Gastric Band (or sometimes a ‘Ballon’) that physically reduces the size of the stomach. This naturally leads to the patient having a reduced appetite and gradually losing weight
The intervention is not without considerable risks.

The risks of gastric band surgery

A television programme on Channel 5 on Wednesday 16 October 2013 highlighted some extreme cases where weightloss surgery had a serious and in some cases, potentially fatal, outcome. To be fair, only one of those cases was a gastric band operation, but it is still a scenario everybody dreads.
The process, which involves surgically installing a Read more »

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As part of the process of performing NLP, Hypnotherapy, and indeed any kind of treatment, there is one very important check that always takes place. It’s the ecology check.

Clients can come to a therapist for an incredible range of issues. In fact I would say that every client has a unique situation, that is supported by his or her own personal history. So a good therapist will always seek some further information before performing an ‘intervention’, rather than assume that one technique will always work.

For example a client may come to a therapist with a fear of dogs, and there are several excellent and powerful techniques for dealing with such phobias which are fairly general. However the therapist will want to be sure that the phobia is not in fact an ‘example’ of something else. Removing a phobia without some deeper understanding of the issues may result in a less successful outcome, or it may be successful but leave the client with the bigger issue unresolved, which may mean he or she will develop new ‘symptoms’.Read more »

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I have a passion for NLP, hypnotherapy and timeline therapy. I do not have a passion for cats.
They know this.
Cats have an ability to calm, to give perspective, to make a sometimes spiritual relationship with their owners – when they’re not vomiting over the bed or dragging a half-dead and bloody rodent around the kitchen.
I have two cats – (Yes… I know… why?) and when there is a need to use my home with clients, I am always careful to remove them to a place where they can’t bring their influence to bear on the proceedings. They seem to strongly disapprove of hypnotherapy. I suspect that this is because they know something far more effective than that – some sort of distant mind-control, and don’t want me stealing their thunder. In the early days my innocence assumed that the cats would merely give character and personality to the sessions. Maybe even, a cat-loving client might feel happier to share with little ‘Damian’ the ginger tom, purring in his or her lap.Read more »

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