Here’s the thing! Not everyone is ready to talk about their problems.
That’s totally OK! Because getting help, even just talking to someone, is actually a process you have to progress through. And at any given time, everyone will find themselves in a slightly different place along their own personal journey.
Let’s look at those steps right now! You may find yourself identifying wholly with one or more of these steps, or you might feel that you’re nestled somewhere in-between two. Again, that’s totally OK. Establishing where you feel you are right now is actually an important aspect of developing the skills necessary to effect personal change. So power to you!
Before we discuss anything however I would like to point out that you are the driving force. Whilst a skilled Helper will guide and hold space for you, it is up to you to define the particulars of what “better” means to you. You will find no judgement, agenda or opinion within our work together.
It all begins with pre-contemplation. This is the step where you’re beginning to think about accessing the support that may be available to you, but you’re not convinced that it can or will help you. You might not even feel you need it! You may have a hundred questions or feel completely unprepared to begin, unsure what to say, unsure as to how it works or what will happen. These are all perfectly natural thoughts, as with anything new or unfamiliar, we have reservations.
In the pre-contemplation stage, any conversation that takes place will be focused on the general aspects of your life and how you perceive the world, your thoughts, feelings, hopes and desires. We’d explore what makes you, you, and explore how you see yourself fitting in with the world around you.
You could liken this to establishing an understanding of your sense of self, and it’s often this kind of discussion that brings aspects of a person’s self experience into sharper focus. It enables an inner dialogue that may have laid dormant for some time.
Once you have a grasp of this form of inner reflection, you’ll be moving on to the contemplation stage.
At the contemplation stage you’ve had an experience with self realisation that has awoken your curiosity or belief that there is something in this process of talking to a Helper. You’ll be wanting to explore how the working relationship could progress and what the potential benefits would be to you and your mental health.
You’ll want to spend more time in the company of a skilled Helper, and explore what has already been discussed, in more depth. So we’re still talking about your life experience and your ideas of self worth.
If your experience continues to be beneficial, and you are continuing to discover things about yourself that may lead to positive change, then it would be time to move onto the preparation stage.
At the preparation stage we start to explore the limits of how talking therapies can help, and discuss and agree upon your own personal commitment towards effecting positive change. This isn’t so much about making the changes right now, but rather discussing what might be necessary to do that work, and how the benefits and developments could be observed, and what these would mean to you and your life.
Preparation is not the commitment to doing the work, but rather understanding the detail of the work and what it will entail. You should still be making your own decisions here and what constitutes good change, is entirely up to you. Change, positive or negative, is hard to observe and experience on a day to day basis, so it may become important to work towards establishing criteria for assessing the benefit of our time together, to get a learned sense of how talking therapy is helping you and the progress you are making.
Likewise, we would probably set timescales for periodic review, in order that we could observe the progress being made and assess the value of that progress based on your own criteria.
Once a plan is established, it is time to make change. This is the stage where we do commit to the work and actively seek to work together towards reaching a state of “better”. There are no hard and fast promises and certainly no guarantees. The scope of offering help to someone is so vast and intricate that it is unethical to do so. But rather a mutual understanding and commitment to each other to work together with the aim of reaching a stage of “better”, however that may have been defined in our discussions together.
The process of making change may result in a determination that you may wish to seek out more qualified support, or may produce a situation outside of the skillset of your Helper. In either event, we may refer you to another service should we feel this would be in your best interests.
There is no “one size fits all” in talking therapies and it’s a wide range of sliding scales that make up the quality of the experience you can have. Our goal during the make change stage is to provide support as best we can and have you determine the value and effectiveness of that support.
Assuming you are making positive change, the final stage is maintaining change.
Habits form at different speeds for different people, so it’s important to maintain a close watch on how well positive change is practiced continuously. Of course, at times we all lapse and make “bad” choices – whatever and however those are personally defined. It is important to maintain a sense of accountability throughout, and recognise that whilst not every effort will be perfect, 100% of the time, it is the intention and successful application on subsequent attempts that makes up the building blocks of lasting change.
You could liken this to developing the fortitude to make a change, to experience the positive benefit of that change in your life, and to have that experience and desire to have it repeated, more firmly hardwired into your lived experience.
So at what stage do you identify? Are you at the very beginning of your journey, exploring the benefits of talking therapies? Or have you already had some experience in this field, good or bad, and now find yourself more comfortably aware of how far you have come?
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