A Tale of Two Clients
Several years ago a woman came to us to change her drinking. She was bored with her life. She didn’t like her job, her home, the city she lived in, her marriage was stale, pretty much everything was boring. Is it any wonder she would stop at a bar on her way home every day and drink and then continue drinking after she got home?
Together we crafted a plan reflecting her wants and desires, her interests and strengths and she went home. We continued with follow-up for three months and she did OK but had not made many changes.
She called almost a year later, despairing of ever being able to quit drinking. She suggested that maybe it was time to begin seeing a therapist again. I got out her chart and looked at the notes I had taken, and her plan and asked about what she had actually done – what changes she had made to make her life more interesting. She hadn’t done anything.
I told her that she could starting seeing a therapist again if she wanted to but she really did know what she needed to do. She just needed to actually do it rather than just talk about it. And you know what? This time she did. And her drinking issues started to go away. Finally.
Contrast the client above with another of our clients. This woman came to us drinking a lot and saying – if she only had a road map out of the swirl she was in, then she would be OK. Together we figured out a step-by-step plan for her to follow when she went home. When she left us, she actually followed the plan and did great. She didn’t need to talk about it a lot with us or her former therapist. She just needed some guidance and a plan.
One client liked to talk about making changes but didn’t actually make any. The other was tired of talking about it and needed an action plan. When it comes to quitting drinking, the person who takes action always does better than the one who just wants to talk about taking action.
Where Are You Now, Where Do You Want To Be a Year From Now?
Many of us get trapped in the endless “talking about it in therapy” cycle. I think therapy can be of great benefit when you are dealing with problem behaviors but it is only the first step in the process of changing that behavior. It can help to understand why you do or feel the way you do, but that in itself does not change the behavior. That is where having an action plan comes in. That is the part good therapists include in their treatment plans and the part many other therapist do not include.
We always ask you where you are now and where you want to be in a year. We assume many, if not most of our clients have gone to therapy, so you know why you behave the way you do. But most of you have either failed to implement an action plan or never had one to begin with. That is where our work with you comes in. We like action plans. Of course we need to know some background on your problems and issues but we focus more on where you want to be and getting you there.
Our focus on action reflects our belief that active engagement in life is not compatible with lots of drinking. Problem drinking turns us into spectators in our own lives. If you want to change the drinking you have to start being engaged in your life and that means doing stuff – taking action. Very few people can think or talk their way out of their drinking problems. It requires active behavior change on the drinker’s part, in order to be successful.
So, if you have thought about it enough and are ready to make some changes, give us a call. We are ready to help you make a plan.