To a certain extent, therapy works -like lots of other projects in our lives- as a get-what-you-give experience.

I think this is true for both people involved. I get a lot more out of the work I do with people when both of us are deeply invested in the process, both of us committed to a meaningful, shared understanding of what we’re focusing on in each session, as well as the desire to put a certain amount of our valuable time and energy into working on this together.

For this reason, when considering what you want to get out of your therapeutic journey, it can sometimes be useful to think about what you’re willing to put in.

The key thing here is your willingness to make a commitment, even a small one to yourself, and this process. Even a very small commitment to a valued activity (e.g. committing to doing some cardiovascular exercise for 15 minutes 3-5 times a week) can make a massive difference to our well-being, as well as our self-esteem. Our minds, being such highly-distractable and energy-saving “devices” often struggle to commit – even to the things they know are good for us. So this is why it’s often good to get some kind of commitment from your “heart” (or whatever part of you that you feels holds the best intentions and aspirations for you) before we get going.

Below, I’ve outlined three ways of working together which I call Focused Therapy, Pick & Mix Therapy, and Free-Range Therapy.

I think it’s important to point out before deciding which commitment model works for you, that there is no hierarchy here (at least for me). I enjoy and find stimulating working with clients at any level of commitment. This is because each structure, as you shall see, comes with potential benefits and costs for both of us. As with most things in life: swings and roundabouts!

So feel free, when choosing a model for us to work in to choose something that is appropriate for YOUR time-constraints and interest in this process.

But equally, don’t undersell yourself! Certain issues do seem require some kind of Focused/Structured work on both sides (therapist and client) in order to make headway with them. Others less so. 

If you’re not sure which version of therapy would work best for you, let’s have a chat about what you’re looking to get out of this process, and then see if that realistically might be achieved with a these different ways of working.

FREE-RANGE THERAPY:

My Commitment to You & The Process:

-I commit to being wholly focused and present in our sessions, approaching each session as best I can in a Ventral Vagal state (authentic, accepting, caring, flexible, sincere, kind), with the willingness to take stock both in supervision, but also with you, if I don’t live up to these aspirations and ideals.

-I commit to taking brief notes in our sessions of topics talked about, themes, as well as interesting things you have said in passing that I think would be good to follow up on at some point.

-I commit to spending some time after each session writing up my notes and discussing our work together in supervision to ensure that I am working in a way that is safe and helpful for you and the challenges you’re facing.

Your Commitment to Me & The Process:

-You commit to speaking about yourself and your life in our sessions in an authentic and focused way, giving yourself (and us) time in the session to pay attention to those areas of your life you are most interested in talking about.

-If you are not sure as to what to talk about in our sessions, you are committed to having some time and patience for periods of silence between us in which you can follow your thoughts and see what pops up next that you might want to explore.

Potential Costs:

For YOU: at times feeling a little bit off-track in a session as we follow the many highways and byways of your life and mind, but otherwise no real downsides to this model.

For ME: no real costs for me; I really enjoy doing Free-Range Therapy, as in many ways it is a very “pure” form of therapy. We both arrive each week, open and willing to explore, and see what arrives. Sometimes, really interesting or stimulating things do arrive, sometimes not. But in either case, a connection is made once a week, that over time amounts to (hopefully) a good, warm affiliation.

Potential Benefits:

For YOU: this level of commitment allows you to keep our sessions pinned down to a single time and place. There is no expectation on you to do any “homework” or other forms of consolidation, although people who use this method often find themselves having interesting follow-up insights out of the blue, whilst doing other things not related to therapy, which can be very gratifying.

For ME: I often find that Free-Range Therapy can produce some really interesting conversations and insights for us. This is often because Free-Range Therapy allows for more free-association, which can sometimes create interesting new perspectives and ways of seeing the world and ourselves.

FOCUSED THERAPY

My Commitment to You & The Process:

-I commit to being wholly focused and present in our sessions, approaching each session as best I can in Wise Mind (authentic, accepting, caring, flexible, sincere, kind), with the willingness to take stock both in supervision, but also with you, if I don’t live up to these aspirations and ideals.

-I commit to taking brief notes in our sessions of topics talked about, themes, as well as interesting things you have said in passing that I think would be good to follow up on at some point.

-I commit to spending some time after each session writing up my notes, as well as reflecting on one or two “practices” which you might want to try out in the week between each session that are specifically targeted at whatever we focused on (primarily) in our session together. I commit to sharing these with you, probably via an email or WhatsApp after our session so that you have something to focus on during the week.

-I may also look for and make suggestions for some reading, or some reflection questions for you to think about, something to add some grist to journalling or whatever form  of processing (see below) you’re engaged with which can then be discussed in our next session.

-I commit to discussing our work together in supervision to ensure that I am working in a way that is safe and helpful for you and the challenges you’re facing.

Your Commitment to Me & The Process:

-You commit to having a specific focus that you would like to concentrate on in each session (based primarily on the document which we’ve created together outlining some of the issues you’d like to tackle in therapy, as well as the outcomes you’re hoping to see some movement in. If we have not done this yet for whatever reason, let’s!).

-You commit to having a document on your computer or a journal where you write up for each session your focus for the session (before the session) as well as any insights or future directions you might want to explore (after the session). Sometimes it can be more interesting to write these up as creative pieces: poems, drawings/paintings/photos, comics, essays, or short stories. If you have an interest in doing this, please tell me.

-You are committed to trying out (probably on a daily basis) new behaviours, or practices, or different forms of focus/attention. These may include: making a note of a particular behaviour you are trying to notice and work with each day; or filling out sentence stems connected with an issue we’ve discussed; or doing a brief (5-10 minute) guided meditation or reflection exercise on a daily basis connected to a character strength or value you are trying to develop or strengthen. Or doing some targeted visualisations on a daily basis; keeping track of certain parts of your personality on a daily basis (noticing and noting down their thoughts/emotions/bodily sensations).

-If the practices/strategies shared with you don’t feel appropriate or feasible, you are committed to sharing why this might be the case with me, and then offering an alternative focus for the week which serves the same purpose, using your creativity and resources to suggest some alternatives.

-You are committed to reading articles and occasionally the odd chapter of a book that may be helpful for you to think more deeply or from different perspectives about the issues that you find challenging in your life.

-You are committed to sending me (if required) updates about certain agreed practices or exercises on a (sometimes) daily basis. You are committed to keeping me “in the loop” in some way.

Potential Costs:

For YOU: time and energy; conscientiousness (i.e. doing the consolidation work/reading even when you’re not always feeling like it); maybe a bit more emotional turbulence during the week if dealing with emotionally difficult/challenging issues – though we will always try and make sure you’re equipped to deal with this before you embark on this focused/high-commitment route.

For ME: a lot more time and energy between sessions in keeping track of things we’ve agreed you might send to me or that you are working on (for example: exercises, updates on mood or thought-patterns etc.). Sometimes if this requires more than a couple of extra hours, I might need to factor this into my fee, but generally speaking I am happy to put in the extra time and energy if I can see that you are equally committed and focused on the process.

Potential Benefits:

For YOU: getting as much bang for your buck out of the process! A sense of pride and purpose in putting your mental and physical health first and foremost (the YOU dimension of the LIFE MOT) which hopefully will also render benefits in other dimensions that you value: work, relationships, creative/spiritual pursuits.

For ME: a sense of purpose and achievement, knowing that we are both “giving our all” to the process. I find this deeply satisfying and meaningful.

PICK-&-MIX THERAPY

As this is a good halfway house in terms of commitment, I would encourage YOU to write the terms down for us. Maybe you can combine the bits and pieces you like from the High Commitment and Low Commitment aspirations expressed above.

My Commitment to You & The Process: [write down what kind of commitment you would expect of me]

Your Commitment to Me & The Process: [write down what kind of commitment you’d expect of yourself on a weekly basis]

Potential Costs: [what do you imagine the potential costs to be for you?]

Potential Benefits: [what do you imagine the potential benefits to be for you?]

 

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