Every now and then I hear about a “great new therapy” that promises fast results and lasting change (often after a single session or treatment). I am highly skeptical of such approaches and I encourage you to do some due diligence before signing up for one.
The process of human change is not nearly as mysterious as we may think. It has in fact been studied at length and there is a good deal of research that informs the way agents of change – therapists, in this case – ought to be working. In short, change does not happen overnight. In the evidence-based Stages of Change model, the “action phase,” in which a person actually begins to do something differently, is the fourth stage out of six – after precontemplation, contemplation, and preparation. Additionally, relapse is a built-in part of the model. As I tell my clients, change is like the stock market – there will be ups and downs, but over time it will definitely go up – if you put the work in.
Yes, there are people who can put down a cigarette and successfully go cold turkey. There are also people who become filthy rich off of penny stocks. Those are the exceptions, not the rule. Doing something different from the way you’ve always done it – perhaps for years or decades – takes time. People are creatures of habit, and it is very easy to fall into old habits, even dysfunctional ones.
Lasting change takes time and effort – there are no shortcuts. If you are looking at counseling as a way to fix your personal (or interpersonal) problems, be aware that it’s not a one-shot deal. Be ready to give it a few weeks to see if it’s working. If you’re looking for the quick fix, counseling is probably not it – but then again, for most problems, nothing else is, either.