Committing to Therapy

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Many clients ask me if they are ‘crazy’ to need therapy. Does committing to therapy mean they need to be committed or sectioned? The short answer is: No.

Most people struggle with any change, e.g. getting divorced. Being disabled however brings many changes, often at once, and it’s normal and OK to need some support to navigate these.

So, to feel that coming for therapy is OK, it may help to explain a bit more about it and address some concerns you may have about therapy.

‘The quick fix’ myth

Unfortunately, the usual message we receive about mental health is that we can ‘fix’ our minds by solely taking medication, or doing 6 sessions of therapy. For some people, medication and/or a short course of therapy can work. For the majority of disabled people who work with us however, more is needed: being disabled can be complex, there often is more than one issue to work on.

Being disabled is not ‘fixable’ in the same way irrational negative thoughts are for example. Besides impairment effects, a lot of the experiences of disability are about how others in society treat us (the social model of disability) and dealing with a reduced sense of control in our lives. Spokz People’s support is about improving wellbeing by learning resilience, coping strategies, and how to deal with difficult situations better.

“You only offer 10 free sessions – you must believe in quick fixes”

Finding funding is a major issue at Spokz People and often we are only able to offer you 10 free or subsidised sessions because of funding shortages. Sometimes people feel they shouldn’t have to pay sessions: it’s not their fault they are disabled. This is perfectly true, it is not your ‘fault’, if that is the right word to use. Unfortunately, both the NHS and grant funders struggle to understand what benefits there are from working long term with someone and they also struggle to understand the emotional impact of disability.

We do offer time-limited free sessions, but with caution. Our biggest concern is that you feel things have improved at the end of your therapy and not as if the ‘can of worms’ has been left open. That is the main reason for writing this blog – when you first speak to Allie, together you can look at whether 10 sessions will be enough or whether you need to invest in more sessions or explore how to get more sessions if you are on a low income.

If, perhaps after reading our blog on trauma (insert link), you conclude there is only 1 issue, then DEFINITELY, you can make good progress in 10 sessions, use these tips:

  • Try and prepare and hone your sessions down to 1 question: what is it that I have never said to anyone before? What 1 issue or area of my life do I want to work on?
  • Be clear with your therapist at the start that you are not continuing after the free sessions and together you can prioritise what you work on. It may be that you can use the sessions looking at practical approaches to reduce pain or stress or increase energy and relaxation. If you are experiencing ongoing trauma, then a focus on coping with stress and anxiety may be good way to use your limited sessions.
  • You can also agree with your therapist to have summary emails and a written down self-help toolkit you can take away at the end of your session, including ideas and books to continue on your journey after your sessions. 
  • Meeting your therapist weekly. A common issue at Spokz People is regular sessions. We always suggest meeting weekly, so both parties remember what was said last week, what was being worked on and the key issue of the last session. There are many practical reasons why sessions often do not happen weekly (e.g. illness, hospitalisation or medical appointments, transport or carer issues) and it can be hard to change these aspects. Sometimes though, what we talk about can really push buttons deep inside us about how we value ourselves. And sometimes this can be too much to bear and not attending weekly can make it feel easier. If this happens, do talk to your therapist about this as it can affect the work that can be done… you can lose momentum and fear can build in the relationship. It also makes the sessions have less emotional depth and turn more into practical coaching sessions. If this is what you are after, perfect, we will always try and work with whatever you are able to invest in terms of time and money. We appreciate we all have complex lives filled with PAs, family, work, assessments, equipment and aids etc.
  • You can also plan to come back after your sessions for top-up sessions.

If there are more issues going on in your life, most likely changes are going to take time. As an indication, a year is a decent amount of time if you want to make important changes to how you think and feel about yourself, and to give yourself the time to make changes in your life and relationships and be supported throughout this process.

Does that seem long? Does it feel scary thinking about working with a therapist for that long?

It’s no small thing to try and change how we view ourselves, increase our confidence and how we behave towards ourselves and those around us. Often, we are battling years of negative messages.

But…we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think you can make changes and improve your life and wellbeing!

‘You should always like your therapist’ myth

Another common issue is getting along with your therapist. Should you always get along? What if they upset you and you want to leave because of this?

We make a commitment to support you through your journey no matter how hard it gets or how unsolvable things may feel, or how long it takes. In return however, we ask for a commitment from you:

  • to attend as often as you can and try phone or online work if illness prevents face to face meetings; 
  • to not end your sessions when the going gets tough. Good therapy is, at times, tough: we are discussing things you don’t like about yourself, those things we all keep hidden, those things that have never been said out loud.
  • always struggled with endings? Discuss this with your therapist, plan it and have the best ending experience possible. Use this last session to plan your future journey, feedback on the relationship with your therapist for yourself and for them.
  • to go back to your therapist when they upset you. Notice I said ‘when’ not ‘if’….most likely, at some point, your therapist will upset you and you may want to leave. The best therapy is actually about these ruptures in the relationship, sounds strange, right? You start working together fine and then something happens, one person’s frustration or anger is triggered by something the other said. This is actually a really important part of therapy: if you are able to tell the therapist about what they said which upset you, it usually leads to a great learning opportunity around what patterns there are in your life and how you can change them. Usually, when you have explored what happened, unpicked the triggers and the reactions, the relationship can continue at a greater depth with more insight. What happens in the therapy room often mirrors what is happening in your life outside the room. Therapy gives us a rare opportunity to talk about conflict in a way we often can’t or don’t with the people around us. This is what helps to break relationship patterns: it happens with your therapist, you unpick it, you identify why this happens in your life and then you learn to stop it from happening. Isn’t that a wonderful idea?

I hope this blog goes some way into explaining why and how to commit to therapy and breaks down some common myths and fears around therapy. The most important thing to remember is that if you stick with therapy and form a good relationship with your therapist, you will improve your wellbeing. Our approach is to offer you a safe place to explore things in a less time-constrained, holistic way. Disabled people usually have to be tenacious, persevering and patient because they often have to fight and wait for things, and it is that persistence that we need from you when it comes to therapy, but it will be worth it.

Do feel free to engage with us, agree or disagree with this blog, tell us what your fears and concerns are, but carry on the conversation! If you want to find out more, please do contact Allie who deals with new enquiries on allie@spokzpeople.org.uk or 07733681883.

Best wishes,

Mel