Phases of Therapy

Each course of therapy is unique to the people involved because it is co-created by the client and the therapist. You bring expertise in your strengths, challenges, and particular life circumstances, while I bring knowledge based in the science of psychology and the art of human experience.

Therapy generally follows a 3- to 4-phase process that begins with the initial period of evaluation. I think of this as the time when you catch me up on the story of your life thus far and your desires for the future. We also begin to clarify how we’ll know when we’ve reached the endpoint of therapy. One of your key tasks is to decide if you feel comfortable enough to continue working with me. If not, then we can discuss referrals to other providers in the community. Likewise, if I determine that I do not have the knowledge or skills to assist you with your concerns, then I will help you secure a referral to a provider more likely to ably help you address your needs.

If we agree to work together, then the evaluation phase blends into a period of skill review and enhancement. This involves the identification of your effective coping skills or the learning of new coping skills. Common skills reviewed include relaxation methods, mindfulness practices, and learning to work with emotions. The skills phase may last anywhere from one to 10 or more sessions, depending upon your needs.

At this point, you may choose to end therapy or you may elect to continue into a “working through” phase. I find the use of EMDR therapy very helpful when you are ready to address your “stuck points” or “hot button” issues that have not easily resolved with other strategies. This is the phase when the going can be tough because it may mean facing unpleasant emotions, thoughts, or memories that you would much rather not address. Persisting through the tough moments can be incredibly rewarding, though. Deep and lasting change often results by working through the tough stuff. This phase can last from a few sessions to several months; it varies from person to person.

Ideally, therapy ends with a phase of reflecting on the experience of therapy and saying good-bye to one another. In day-to-day life, endings can be fraught with difficulty. Some like to get them over with quickly (or quietly), whereas others draw out the time of parting. How we end therapy can either be consistent with ways we have ended other relationships, or we can make an intentional effort to end therapy in a different,  perhaps more balanced or wholesome manner. The ending process may occur over one session or it may be built in to several sessions as the working through draws to a close.

Do you have questions about the therapy process? Call 614-843-1009.