“I talked and talked, but nothing changed”

B bullets 7 red yellow stripes aa-img024_cr “I talked and talked but nothing changed” – what my clients say about traditional counselling and psychotherapy

Wouldn’t it be nice to have comparative reviews of counselling, psychotherapy, and hypnotherapy? I can’t offer exactly that, but I have something similar: the comments of the clients who come to me who have had previous experience with other types of therapy. (See also: if you are looking for help in Bristol, what is the difference between counsellors, psychotherapists and hypnotherapists?)

I want to phrase this with great care. There are many excellent hypnotherapists, counsellors and psychotherapists of all persuasions who are hugely helpful to their clients. Clearly, I don’t meet their clients, because those clients are happy with the results they achieved and, if necessary, they go back to the same therapist.

But I do see many clients who have been to other therapists previously. And over the years, what they say  has fallen into a very consistent pattern:

If people have been to a counsellor, they say

  • “I talked a lot and I understand where my problem comes from. But nothing changed.”

This single commonest question people ask me is, “Do I talk and you just listen? I did that before and nothing changed, will this be different?” ( “Yes.”)

If the person has been to a CBT therapist, they say either:-

  • “The CBT was helpful, it was good at the time, but it didn’t go deep enough”

or

  • It didn’t go anywhere near deep enough.”

(See  The myth of CBT – why cognitive-behavioural therapy isn’t the “best” therapy and my overall critique of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT))

If the person has been to a hypnotherapist, they say one of three things:

  • “If was very useful, but the hypnotherapist I went to retired / moved away so I’ve come to you instead.”

or, if the previous hypnotherapist practised mainly the therapist-talks, client-listens style termed “suggestion therapy”:

  • “It didn’t get to the heart of the problem.”

or they say

  • “I went to a hypnotherapist but I wasn’t ready to change, and now I am.”

If they’ve been to a psychotherapist, people either say the same as for counsellors:

  • “I talked a lot and I understood where my problem came from, but nothing changed.”

or they say

  • “I’ve done three years of psychotherapy and I worked through my problem with my parents. I’ve dealt with that.”
    – except if they dealt with it, why is the person so surprised when the same problem has come up again?  I’m not saying core issue problems should not re-occur.  True core issues don’t totally vanish in one round of any kind of therapy, that’s life. They are too engrained for that. Rather, you encounter the same problem again and again, but each time it is lighter, less serious, easier to deal with, easier to step out of. You may only need the help of a therapist the first time that you encounter it; after that you get out of it more and more easily on your own. (The quotation on this page from Sogal Rinpoche puts it beautifully.) So there is nothing whatever wrong with problems recurring. What I do find strange is when a psychotherapist leaves someone thinking that because they’ve “done psychotherapy”, they’ve finished with their core issues once and for all, especially when sometimes there seems to have been little real deep change.

I repeat, I am not saying that this would be your experience with all such therapists. All I’m saying is this. Some of my clients come to me because they want to try something different from what they have done before, and those that do consistently speak in these terms.

I’m also not saying that the previous work is wasted. It’s not. When someone has done previous psychotherapy or counselling,  the current work always goes quicker and deeper. But the previous work is often like a ship that goes on a journey, but doesn’t actually make landfall at the other end; people need to make a further step, beyond mere understanding, for life to actually change.

In particular there seem to be many counsellors and psychotherapists who listen while the client talks, and listen, and listen, and the client talks, and talks, but real life does not change.  I assure you what I do is different. If you would like to explore how or to arrange a free initial meeting in Bristol, give me a call on 0845-3510604 (currently the same as dialling 0117 955 0490). I’m happy to talk.

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