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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a box of white eggs with one 'different' red one

“Why am I different?” – It’s a question I get asked a lot by my clients about themselves. “‘I try to be like everyone else. I try to fit in. I wear the kind of clothes that other people my age wear. I join in with the conversations that go on and try to look like I am totally on their wavelength. I pretend to be interested in all the things they like to do, and I take part in the socials. I turn up for the charity events and I even turn a blind eye to the things that make me uncomfortable.

“I don’t agree with some of the things people say, and some of it is just so wrong, on so many levels. I daren’t say anything though, so I just smile politely. That makes me feel really bad inside. It just emphasises even more that I am different, and I don’t think people would like me if they knew what I am really like.”

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discover your passion - heart with a jigsaw piece missing

Passion is a big word that suggests something overpowering, uncontrollable and visceral. When we say we want to discover our passion, the word asks us to connect to our deepest selves. Many people are able to say what their passion is. Their deepest interests, their hobbies, their careers and the people that are around them.

A significant number of people that come to see me, have far less clarity about what their passion and want me to help them discover their passion for themselves.

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meandering path to improving your mood

How can you improve your mood? How do you feel today? Do you feel motivated? Driven? Excited? Glad to be alive? Or do you feel apathetic, bored, lazy or just plain down?

As a Life Coach and NLP expert, part of my job is to help people feel better. This might be a short term boost to motivation or positivity, or it might be a long term plan to improve your mood by changing your life.

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frog with low self-esteem offering flowers to princess

Low self-esteem is a constant theme that runs through much of my client work. By no means to do all potential clients come to me asking for help in raising self-esteem of course, but it often comes up as an issue.

One person comes to me about his relationship challenges and through exploration we come to the conclusion that his partner is not able to respect him because he does not adequately respect himself.

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Dealing with guilt, regret or shame using NLP or Timeline Therapy can be very helpful in enabling you to move on in life.

All of us, at one time or another, have had moments where we have made choices that we have later had cause to regret. Guilt for doing something, or failing to do something seems inevitable and can cause us great unhappiness and pain.

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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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In the last blog I visited the concept of ‘metaprograms’ – the general approaches to life that influence our view of the world and affect the success of our choices and outcomes, both positively and negatively. There are no ‘wrong’ metaprograms, and they are preferences rather than hard and fast rules. So in the last example, having a preference for a ‘toward’ metaprogram, or an ‘away from’ metaprogram each has their own benefits and disadvantages.

Another metaprogram that can have a significant effect on your world view is ‘chunk-size’.Read more »

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towards/away fromIs your map of the world (see my blog “I finally get getting there”) a generally positive one, or typically erring on the side of negativity?

How we respond to our world, as I’ve said many times before, can totally colour our view of life. Two people viewing the same event can have completely different experiences and interpretations, based on how they filter the information they receive through their senses. There are a range of these filters available to us. For instance we may filter our experience to favour certain senses – focusing on the visual, or on the sounds that are present. We may filter through our values – we may judge easy going people more harshly, for example if one of our highest values is consistency, or achievement.Read more »

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