“Does it work?” is a question that gets over-used. Scientific evaluation is great for some products and processes, but it’s less appropriate method when it comes to people, whether it’s behaviour, wellbeing or relationships we are talking about.

Asking “Does it work?” might be a useful question for some things. A washing machine or a lawnmower, for example. But it’s not the right question when you are embarking on therapy, personal change, or even healing.

In such cases, a more useful question is “Is it effective?”, or better still “How will I/we know if it’s effective?”

I’ve been saying it for years (that’s a report, not a pout). Mostly, I’ve been saying it to my clients, and now I’m saying it to you.

It’s a point I’m passionate about, but I’ve only just got round to it writing about it because it’s one of those apparently simple things which (I find) is difficult to simplify in writing. At least, the explanation of what I mean is difficult to simplify.

Is it effective?

Leaving aside that many of the things we rely on DON’T work as often as they DO (trains in the UK, paracetamol, prayer, for example). The same is true for many healing procedures because we all respond differently to the things that are done to us.

They don’t WORK, but we still use them. Why? Because most of the time they are effective, we hope they’ll be effective or, even though we know they are not likely to ‘work’, using them gives us an illusion of control.

In my work with people, I employ ideas, tactics and strategies without worrying whether they work or not, because I know that they tend to be effective. The effect might be almost immediate – the person might feel better very soon – or it might take longer, months or even years.

Even when an idea isn’t effective in bringing about the change you want, it may well shake up the system a little, or give it a nudge, which moves things in the direction you want. Hence my phrase, “It doesn’t have to work to be effective.”

I’m a psychologist, coach, and therapist. All my work is aimed at enabling people to improve personal aspects of their lives and work.