Why I work with my clients for at least 3 months

When I qualified as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist way back when in 2005, I operated very much from a brief therapy model. My goal was to see a client for as few sessions as possible. I had received excellent training that was solution-focussed and was about hunting for patterns that could lead me to the shortest possible route into (and out of) someone’s issue. Back then, I baulked at the prospect of working with clients for extended periods of time and believed that it was borderline unethical to do.

By far the most common question asked by a prospective client would be, “How many sessions will I need?”. It was an unknown, of course, and I quickly learned not to make assumptions, but I did have the expectation of them needing approx 4-6 sessions. Clients are looking for leadership in this area, but I was very keen not to give anyone false hope or unrealistic expectations, whilst at the same time letting them know that change can happen more quickly than perhaps they had thought possible. By far the most common question in Supervision was also about “When to let a client go?” Everyone wants to know how long it will take. The classic Piece-of-String question.

I once took a masterclass with Rubin Battino, therapist extraordinaire and author of ‘“Expectation: The Very Brief Therapy Book”. People travel from all over USA to see him, with the knowledge that their one session with him will be their only session. Because of the expectation of only needing one session, and Rubin’s fabulous reputation, his results are phenomenal. It is absolutely true that a cascade of change can come from a single moment of insight. Rubin was a great advocate for change not needing to take years and this only confirmed my belief that I should always be striving for as few sessions as possible with my clients.

However, in amongst my 4-6 session average, were a handful of clients with whom I worked with for much longer periods of time. In one or two cases, for years!! I think I was probably embarrassed about that. None of us knowingly went into the working relationship as a long term proposition, but it organically happened that we moved from therapy to coaching and back again many times. Every now and again, waves of doubt and fear about being unethical would grip me and I did even try at various points with one particular client to end the working relationship, despite regularly checking for feedback that our work together was continuing to be useful for them. But, do you know what? I can now see that I learned so, so much from those long term clients. It was a very different experience which I now realise to be deeply enriching for both me and my clients.

On reflection, I think the brief therapy model had always appealed to my commitment-phobic nature. As much as I was motivated for my clients to be free to get on with enjoying their lives as quickly as possible, I did not want to feel committed to them either. I wanted my own exit in sight and couldn’t see what could be gained by a longer relationship, but it was exactly those relationships that taught me so much.

It is actually an incredible honour to be allowed into someone’s life and go with them through thick and thin times and witness their growth as a result of that. Watching someone transform right before your eyes is alchemy, that very often they cannot clearly see for themselves. I LOVE magic, I love alchemy, people moving from one place to another within themselves and the butterfly effect of that.

A couple of years ago I invested in a very expensive coaching programme, which further demonstrated that change can be profound and quick, but where it was recommended that clients could be signed up for longer periods of time, frequently 6 months or a year. I was HORRIFIED at this, completely overlooking that I had worked with some of my clients for longer periods than this. What if your client hit the clarity jackpot in the first session, what were you meant to do for the next 11 months?! I seriously doubted this model for both the client and the coach and feared looking like the purpose of such an arrangement was to get the upfront payment.

During the training we had many hours of peer-to-peer and group coaching and whilst this was helpful, I still wasn’t having the full experience of 1-2-1 coaching with one person over a period of time. After graduating, it was recommended that we hire our own coach and this did make a lot of sense, but it made more sense to earn money to pay off the debt than have a coach. I experimented with various pricing structures, creating packages, putting my prices up, then down. After a couple of bumpy years of messing around with my business model and feeling really lost and confused, I knew I was going to have to bite the bullet a get a coach of my own. It felt like a gamble, but I knew I had been over-complicating things and just seemed to be digging myself a deeper and deeper hole doubting what I had to offer, what to charge and how to move it all forward.

After making the decision that I needed some help, everything fell into place surprisingly quickly and I have recently completed my first 3 month coaching programme and am now entering my next one. A LOT can happen in three months, let me tell you and a whole heap of it wasn’t pretty!! Absolutely necessary, as it turns out, but not pretty.

Having someone on your team, who is NOT emotionally invested in you like your beloveds are, is like nothing else on earth. Have you ever had that? Maybe a teacher, or a sports coach? Someone who really sees you, who can see beyond your hang-ups and only sees your potential. Someone who has your back whilst life is unfolding, who is there for the big insights and kerpow moments and also for the humdrum minutiae of life, and it’s all equally as important, because all those parts make up the whole.

Coaching, as I see it, isn’t just about making someone accountable for their goals, it’s about diving deep into who you are, where you’ve come from, where you’re going, how life works and that, my friends, takes some time and some commitment. Thanks to fabulously easy technology like Skype or Zoom, I have more than half of my client sessions online these days, so this makes the commitment even easier for people as it saves on travel time AND you can be cosy at home in your pyjamas – what’s not to love?

The enormous benefits I have seen for myself by committing to my own development, is mirroring how I am more able to commit to my clients and I really want them to experience that too by working together for a good solid chunk of time that currently looks to me like that is at least 3 months. Are you ready to invest in yourself? Book your complimentary Breakthrough Session to find out more.