Consistency is key in a lot of things - working out, healthy eating, building good habits, but it is also key in therapy. In many ways, therapy is for the mind what the gym is for the body. You don't go to the gym once and come out with a whole new body, never having to set foot on a treadmill again. You need to go to the gym consistently in order to make any real change.
This is what seeing a counsellor is like.
You don't talk with a counsellor for 50-minutes and then you're magically 'cured'. Talking with a counsellors is a process that cannot really be done in one session.
Different therapists will have different ideas of how many sessions it takes to see any kind of change, and in many ways it depends more on the client than the counsellor. However, as a general rule, I like to agree with my clients that, if they want to continue working with me past the first session, we will see each other for at least 6 sessions before they decide whether they would like to continue or not.
One thing that many therapists will aim to keep the same each week is the appointment time. The length of the session is one thing - most therapists will see a client for 50-minutes once a week.
Oftentimes, if the client is late, the session will still finish at the appointed time. This serves two main purposes; the first is practical, the counsellor may very well have another client coming in afterwards or they may only have access to their therapy room at certain times.
The second reason has more to do with the therapeutic relationship than with the practicalities of the session. The therapist has an obligation to maintain the boundaries of the relationship. Part of the role of the therapist is to become a stable, consistent, and secure person in the client's life. This means that the therapist must maintain the boundaries of the appointment even if the client is late. It is not a punishment for the client, but it does allow the client to see that no matter what they do or how they arrive at the session, the session remains constant and unchanged.
It is understandable that there will be breaks in the course of the therapy; holidays abroad, illness, work commitments, and so on. However, wherever possible, your therapist will attempt to avoid having breaks too often.
Different therapists will have different ways of doing things; some will insist on weekly payments, regardless of whether sessions are used and regardless of the amount of notice given for breaks, other therapists will only ask for payments when a session is used, others still will have their own cancellation policy. Some cancellation policies include payment for sessions cancelled with less than 24 hours' notice, others will insist on a week's notice, some will work on a case-by-case basis.
All of this should be laid out and explained by your therapist in the first session.
It may seem unfair that a therapist should expect payment for missed sessions, but again, there are reasons for this. One reason is that it forces the client to prioritise the appointment - if the client is feeling a bit under the weather or that there just isn't time in the day because their to-do list is too long, the instinct is likely to be cancelling the therapy appointment. However, these are likely to be the situations in which therapy is most needed. Knowing that you would be paying for the session even if you don't use it, should be a good incentive to keep the appointment.
As always, if you would like to book an initial counselling session with me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or head to 'Book an Appointment'.
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