How will you know when you are ready to finish therapy?
This is a question I ask each person who comes to see me for psychotherapy, in their first session. We talk about what is bringing them, what they would like to have happen, and what benefits these outcomes would bring them. Then, I ask ‘how will you know when you are there?’
This might seem a strange question, and it often initially evokes an answer of ‘I don’t know.’ That is great, because we can then dialogue and together discover what the evidence of change would be.
The benefit of asking ‘how will you know?’ is that it causes us to create a multi-sensory experience within us of having our outcome. We begin to familiarise our unconscious being with what it is that we want, and our system can then hold this as a possibility, and may even begin to move towards it, without further ado.
We can also check out whether, if we had it, we would really want it. This is an important check - do any downsides or unintended consequences come to mind? Would it be OK for those around us and the world at large? We can really road test our longings in the privacy of the therapy room, and be mindful of what we are wishing for, exploring it from multiple perspectives.
Dale Carnegie used to advise people to begin with the end in mind, for if you don’t know where you are going, any path will do. That said, outcomes evolve, and our wants morph and change as we do, so nothing is set in stone.
For any change you are contemplating, ask yourself, ‘how will I know when I have this? What will be the first thing I will notice? What will others see and hear? And, knowing all of this, do I want it?