Question: ‘How Long Will It Take?’
The third most frequent question I am asked is: “How long will this process take?” It's a fair enough question too – if you're trying to deal with a difficult problem, it's understandable that you'd want to get through it as quickly as possible. However, it is a hard question to answer as it depends on a few things. Let me outline some of the factors that determine how long it takes.
Commitment starts the difference
In my experience, the most significant factor is your commitment to the process. The process works best when you actively engage with it, and the more you let me know about what is working (and not working) about the way we are working together, the more progress you will make. If you feel it is ‘just okay' and you continue in the hope that it gets better, the more likely it is to fizzle out. You deserve better than it being ‘just okay'. The more frank you are with me – even if it feels critical – the better we can get at the real problem and consequently the gains you will make from the process are more substantial. There is plenty of opportunity to do this – I'll often ask you how it's going. This is more than just a polite question; it's an opportunity that I give you to engage.
Determination sees it through
The second most influential factor on how long it takes is your determination to see it through. While it is understandable that financial and other pressures can make continuing our work difficult, the greater you make it a financial and time priority for you, the greater rewards it will give you. If in our initial interview we mutually decide that we will work together weekly, then coming every week, no matter how you feel, no matter what you think there is of value to talk about, improves the efficacy of the process.
When we start to make progress and things start to go well, there is often a false dawn and a consequent temptation to ease up, and prematurely reduce the frequency of our sessions. If we were to do this, you often lose momentum; when things take a downturn again – as things often do – it can suddenly seem like the process isn't working. At this point your first thought may be to give it up and the process ends before it really got started. In reality, the process was not allowed to unfold and reach its potential.
Surprisingly, one of the things that doesn't seem to determine how long the process takes is what you initially want to get from it. This is for two reasons; firstly, what you initially want from this process often changes as time goes on. What begins as a desire for behavioural adjustment can turn into a desire for support for more fundamental change. This is because you begin to understand what is possible from a change process when you have my full support. Secondly, even though you might want what seems like quite simple changes, the implementation and support you require to make these changes is often more substantial and intensive and you anticipated.
In summary, it's very difficult to say how long this process takes. However, no matter how long it takes I am prepared to do whatever I can to help you through it.
– Tim Hill
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