by Dr. Kendra A. O’Hora, LCMFT
Over the last few weeks I’ve received texts and calls from clients I worked with months or years ago reaching back out to schedule an appointment.
I LOVE hearing from clients and think this is SUPER healthy. But before we dig into that, let me offer some back story…
So here’s the deal, in the therapy world, it can be really common as a therapist to never know what happens after a client leaves your office, or graduates from therapy, if you will.
I have clients so so dear to me from Texas and Blacksburg that I genuinely have no clue about. I miss ya’ll!
So, I consider it a joy when clients trickle back in. Most of my clients know my philosophy of the therapeutic process from start to finish but if you have been thinking about touching base with your therapist during these crazy times, I would love to offer my therapy philosophy to you…
I hope this perspective can offer you encouragement and education so that you can decide if sending that text or email is a healthy next step for you.
In graduate school to become a therapist you’re taught a lot of ways to help individuals, couples, and families grow. After graduate school, MANY practitioners go on to work in settings where funding and/or insurance dictates client care.
And this is where the problem begins because I believe the best form of care is navigated intentionally by the client and therapist.
No two clients are the same. No two couples are the same.
A ten session cap just doesn’t do it.
I understand why insurances authorize and manage care this way but I find it to be a broken system and in my corner of the world of Bel Air Maryland, I’m pushing back and advocating for the people I serve.
Because I believe YOU deserve customized care.
A few months ago after explaining my philosophy of therapy to a friend, a sweet and slightly argumentative friend, he wanted to challenge me that therapy is not a marketable service.
To him, there has to be a “problem” and my view of the therapeutic process wasn’t problem oriented.
You see, in my opinion, our culture needs to shift how they think about mental health.
While I know people will always come to therapy when there is a tangible problem, I think an internal adjustment in how we view therapy is in order.
Therapy should be normal, in fact it should be expected. Mental and emotional wellness should be advocated for at a young age and integrated into our yearly health check-ins.
If therapy is an afterthought then we are swimming upstream.
Researchers have suggested that couples wait an average of SIX YEARS before coming to therapy. Ya’ll that’s not ok.
Marriages are failing, children are being abused, infidelity is rampant, school shootings are becoming commonplace, I could go on and on…and you all know depression, anxiety, and suicidality continue to rapidly permeate our nation.
This doesn’t even touch on the countless articles I’ve read about the emotional and mental effects COVID-19 will wreak on our world for decades to come.
Therapy after serving a tour is not enough. Therapy after being beaten and abused by your partner is not enough. Therapy after betrayal is not enough. Therapy after a sexual trauma is not enough.
I cannot change that many of my clients come to therapy with a problem they would like solved. I can educate them on my process and what I would like to see through their experience, if they are open to it.
Here’s what I say at our very first appointment:
“Therapy is a process, it involves assessment, intervention, and termination. Assessment is an information gathering phase and takes about 2-4 sessions. Intervention or treatment can take weeks or months, depending on what you’re here for and where you want to go. We’ll craft this plan together.
Here’s where I am unique: that last phase of therapy is termination. Termination, is a fancy word for the end of therapy. But I’d rather not consider it as having an end. I would rather that we tackle what brings you in. And then, we’ll scale back your sessions to every couple weeks, every couples months, and then once a year. And that’s where you’ll see that I’m different than many of my colleagues.
I want therapy to be a resource, a celebration, and a check-in. If you feel comfortable with me, and we’ll check in along the way, then I’m your therapist for life. Just like you have a general practitioner, as long as I’m working, I’ll be here for you.
Once we work through that initial problem and anything else you’d like to tackle, I would love to see you once a year. Here’s why:
if you forget something down the road or want a refresher, no problem! Send me a message, let’s recap and review.
if you have something special happening in your life, give it the space it deserves to be celebrated! I’m not only here to help you heal, I’m here to be an advocate and encourager for decades to come.
and if something happens, and likely it will, if you experience job loss, loss of a loved one, a transition, or a relationship bump then that check-in gives a chance to catch it. Catch that bump before it becomes a burden.
Bumps are far easier for me to work with and for you to grow through.
This view of therapy is different, it’s collaborative, it’s empowering, it’s healing, it’s hopeful, it’s holistic, it’s healthy.
So, once we tackle this thing, I’ll reach out every so often to let you know I’m here and available if you need.”
And while I never believe it is OK to keep a client longer than needed in therapy, therapy can take on many shapes and sizes.
You are not a problem, you are a human being – complex, curious, and courageous.
So maybe my friend is right, I cannot market therapy as necessary because I do not believe you’re a problem to be fixed.
I can market therapy as life-changing because I believe this path of mental health should be implemented from 3 to 103 and I whole-heartedly believe it is life changing.
So now you know. Any client of mine that’s popped back into my virtual office in the last few months, or ever, is super healthy.
Here’s the NUMBER ONE reason why I think they are healthy:
They believe they are worthy of love, support, growth, attention, care, and hope.
They believe reaching back out is OK.
So go ahead and give your therapist a ring and check in, there has never been a more imperative time to see how you are doing.
Orrrrr…. give us a call if you are not established with a therapist and you’re ready to have a wellness relationship for years to come!
Not sure about tele-therapy in the midst of these crazy times? I recently wrote a blog about this exact topic. And if you’re ready to start growing but want to learn more about the couples therapy process first than check out my e-course: The Complete Guide to Starting Couples Therapy: Kickstart Your Bond with Healing and Hope Today!