Coming back to therapy
I’m sometimes asked by clients who are finishing counselling with me: “Can I come back to see you if I need to?”. And the answer very definitely is yes!
Not all therapists advocate a ‘come back if you need to’ approach, but for me it’s an important part of supporting clients to regain their confidence, resilience and autonomy.
Why might you want to return to therapy?
There are various reasons why you might decide to return to therapy or counselling once your initial run of sessions has finished. Reasons might include:
- New events or life experiences have triggered old memories or patterns of behaviour for you, and you want to revisit some of these issues to get a handle on them again.
- Because life (and self-development) never stands still, you might realise you now have a fresh perspective on your past and want to explore it with the benefit of hindsight.
- You’ve realised that the work you did in therapy before was not as complete as you’d initially thought, and you want to tackle it again – old habits and ways of being (often the bedrock of what brings people to therapy) can be difficult to break and you might just need a bit more support to get on top of it again.
- Because an effective therapeutic relationship feels safe and secure, it can be daunting – when coming to the end of counselling – to imagine never coming back. For some people, it can be like having a safe refuge that they know is available to them if they need it. They might never need to return to counselling, but it helps to know that the door is still open if they need to use it.
- Having had the experience of a helpful, supportive and non-judgemental relationship with a counsellor, it makes sense to return to it if and when new events or experiences feel difficult to deal with on your own.
Does returning to therapy mean that it didn’t work before?
No, not necessarily. Sometimes therapy is best done in stages, with gaps away from it to process and reflect on what you’ve learned so far. Counselling can be hard work, mentally and emotionally, because you’re exploring things – memories, traumas, bad experiences or relationships etc – that may be deeply entrenched. Because of that, you might feel you want a break to recharge and then come back to the counselling with a fresh eye.
Sometimes, life takes over – a new job, a new relationship, a baby is born etc – and you simply don’t have the time, or the money, or the necessary commitment to continue with counselling for the time being. And that’s OK too. Making a commitment to yourself to return to counselling when the time is right can feel very self-empowering.
Counselling relationships tailored to what clients need
Counselling and therapy are chosen by clients for a whole range of different issues, some of which lend themselves to a time-limited, solution-focused approach and others which are more about developing self-awareness or enabling self-development on an ongoing basis. Some clients will end therapy feeling that they’re ‘sorted’ or have done what they needed to do, while others will know that they will probably return to counselling at a later date for more work.
For me, as a counsellor, holding the door open to returning clients is an important part of the service I offer; I don’t ‘slam the door shut’ behind you when we conclude a run of therapy sessions together! Over the years, I’ve had counselling myself a few times – I’ve talked about different things and spent differing amounts of time in each ‘batch’ of sessions.
We all grow and learn from experience as we go through life; why should we think that going into therapy or counselling is a ‘once in a lifetime’ choice?