The duration of therapy varies widely by individual and the needs they have to address. Some people come to therapy for a very specific and immediate issues and only need a few sessions total. Most people attend about 12 sessions (over a 3 month period). Others need or prefer long-term therapy – either because it’s needed due to the depth of the problem areas or because they find that on-going support and maintenance is crucial to their overall mental health. It’s also sometimes the case that people will address immediate issues and then opt for sessions (tune-ups we might call them) as or when needed.
Generally speaking, the goal of therapy is not to be dependent on therapy. This means we start with an end in mind and work with you to consider what goals would need to be met in order to feel like therapy is no longer needed. Ultimately, though, we’ll work with you to determine your unique needs and work collaboratively to make decisions about termination of therapy and help you plan accordingly.
Here are a couple variables that might impact the length of therapy:
- What kind of issues you are wanting to work on. Some people come to therapy for a “tune up” – to work on minor issues that can be resolved in a matter of weeks. Others have deeper issues that need to be resolved that take a much longer time to be processed and worked through. Therapy usually involves practicing new skills and learning new ways of thinking and interacting with the world. Because unhealthy patterns develop over years, it’s reasonable to expect that establishing new habits and lasting change might take some time.
- How much work you do between sessions. We’ll often suggest strategies and interventions for dealing with whatever it is you might be wanting to address. Because therapy is usually only one hour per week, a lot of the real “work” is done in your life and outside of the therapy setting. Level of commitment to the process and the work involved plays a role in how long therapy takes.
- What kind of stuff comes up over the course of Therapy. Even when things are going well, life has a way of throwing us curve balls…and sometimes as we gain insight about ourselves in counseling, we find that there are other things to work through that we might not have anticipated at the beginning.
- Level of readiness for change. Even though people usually come to therapy for change, they might find that they aren’t really quite ready for some of those changes. We often get comfortable with things being the way we have known them and find that it’s a little uncomfortable or hard to make even really positive and healthy changes.
- How well one adjusts to change. Because therapy often leads to “changes” – whatever that might look like – how well one adjusts to that change might play a role in the duration of the therapy process.
- Personal preference. Some people come to therapy with a very solution-focused mindset. They want to talk through and work out issues and move on. Others find that the opportunity to meet with a therapist regularly and ongoing, provides for a good outlet and helps provide stress relief, emotional support, and balance.
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