Silver Bullet Therapy

The Pitfalls Of Anticipating A Quick Fix

By Jonathan Stein, MA, RDT, CTP

When a person comes to see a new therapist, they are, generally speaking, experiencing some degree of internal discomfort along with a desire to feel better about themselves or some aspect of their life. Often, in their ideal scenario, a quick fix is in order from the skilled “professional” so that they, the client, can rid themselves of their pain as fast as possible and get on with their life, business as usual. This not-always-realistic “quick fix” goal could aptly be thought of as a symptom in itself, one that many people acculturated and rooted in an already pathological, imbalanced consumer-oriented/consumer-driven Western culture suffer from: a desperate (perceived) need for instant gratification to quell the anxiety of feeling anything other than “good”. The underlying belief structure is that they believe there is something wrong with them if they are not “good” all of the time.

Even when I remind my clients that therapy rarely offers a silver bullet, they may nod their heads agreeably but may continue to monitor, quietly, how quickly they are feeling “better” as a result of meeting with me. In a way, this type of behavior is to be expected and is normal, so compassion on the part of the therapist is required. However, it is still an important point for potential therapy clients to consider. This is because such a tendency on their part to expect (consciously or unconsciously) an expedient recovery and a once again return to their feel-good-life may hinder advancement toward their therapeutic goals. It could even cause them to choose to prematurely terminate their therapy with a therapist, believing that “it wasn’t working”, or “it wasn’t working fast enough”. In fact, the therapy may have been working just fine and the client’s emerging frustration, anxiety, anger, or other feelings informing their decision to quit therapy may have been exactly what the “doctor” would have ordered them to stick with en route to transform their suffering. At the very least and quite necessary to most successful psychotherapy, sticking with it might have been a step toward cultivating deeper rapport with their therapist, and therefore deepening trust in the therapeutic “container” where real healing could then actually happen.

A very important point for a client to remember when working with a therapist is that it takes time to cultivate a real relationship. It is in the context of a real relationship that healing takes place and real and permanent changes can occur. In order for an authentic connection to develop between a client and therapist, the client has to accept deeply that it takes a while for a true connection to build and for trust to develop.

A helpful and popular metaphor for the whole therapy process is to think of it as an adventure or a journey with someone else. Unfortunately, many, even “middle class” folks these days, consider therapy to be a luxurious indulgence and not an intelligent investment in time or money, in large part because of the Silver Bullet myth (most people actually “get” on some level that quick fixes are really just the hypnotic spins of Hollywood and the corporate mass media). In any case, it’s an investment that they can’t easily justify fitting into their budget, never mind relax into and think optimistically of it as an adventure! Regardless, affordable or not, if someone decides it’s worth their time, energy and money to pursue therapy, the adventurous attitude is most certainly the one to hold. This attitude will contribute to the possibility of enjoying the process of growth and healing in relationship with someone else; yet another benefit of the whole therapy experience. There is ample research suggesting that increasing the amount of joy we humans experience in our lives has an intrinsically healing and transformative effect on our well-being: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. By making the project of entering into relationship with a therapist a journey rather than about some desired or imagined destination, you may find yourself at your destination sooner than you expected.

Take time to find a therapist who is willing to work within your budget so that you can get the support you need. The more you can relax and enjoy the journey of personal transformation in a genuine, caring, and supportive therapeutic relationship that you trust, the more success you will have in getting your life back to where you want it to be.