Mental health, and the treatment of it, causes so many families chaos, confusion and frustration. Accessing support can be difficult and in some cases impossible, and when support is accessed the expectations can differ from the outcomes.
When working with clients, I frequently talk about mental health being an onion.
Onions have layers and layers that you can peel back.
Some mental health issues are isolated, and therefore can be stripped in one go, therefore only requiring 1-2 sessions.
Other mental health issues have developed over months, years, have multiple affects and triggers and therefore require us to strip off more layers to return to positive well-being – therefore requiring multiple sessions over a period of weeks or years.
In some cases, clients will have attempted a number of therapies for only 1-2 sessions and when not finding an immediate cure give up and move to the next therapy. Others, commit to a process and explore and examine the factors and timelines and commit to clearing each layer of the onion therefore gaining the desired success.
So, what do we need to know about accessing therapy for mental health?
1. Treatment types vary – depending on the treatment method will impact the length of treatment required, and also the advised treatment lengths. For traditional talk therapies such as counselling, often, it is advised to attend at least 12 sessions (sometimes more). For sessions such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapies (CBT) treatments are often advised at 8-12 weeks. For other treatments, such as BWRT the length of sessions may vary from 1 to 4 to 8 or more depending on the complexities of cases. For instance, a phobia may only require 1-2 sessions, generalised anxiety 5-8 whilst eating disorders will require a long term treatment.
TIP – Being aware of your own expectations and realistic about the complexities, impact the mental health issues have on life and recognising that sessions may be longer term will directly influence your own engagement and commitment to sessions. You cannot write something off because 1-2 sessions did not cure the issue straight away.
2. Experience impacts length of treatment – For some people who attend therapy sessions, their issues may have one related event/trigger or cause, this often simplifies the process and means that someone will require much fewer sessions. However, for many, issues have built up over a period of months or years, and as such, it should be recognised that this is like peeling an onion. The therapist will work with you to strip back all the issues which have built up and the trigger events, emotions, memories and related factors. This can mean that initially sessions may not remove everything immediately, BUT, committing to sessions and stripping the layers will allow issues to resolve. In these cases within 4-6 sessions improvements should be distinctly measurable.
TIP – If your issues are long term, have a deep impact or prevent life continuing normally, don’t give up and commit to sessions with consistency.
3. Consistency is key – Consistency is key to all things in life, and therapy is no different. Ensuring that sessions have a consistent frequency so that you can build momentum with your therapist and your results is key to results. Leaving weeks or months between sessions distorts expectations, as the client can feel nothing is gained, but without the consistency, the onion of mental health cannot be stripped and therefore progress is disjointed in comparison to someone who attends sessions every 7-10 days.
TIP – commit to your therapy sessions as you would a healthy eating plan – frequency, consistency and commitment lead to results.