How Long Should I Have Therapy For?
Going into therapy can be scary as you often don’t know how long you will need counselling for. With the stigma surrounding counselling, people can be afraid of being judged, especially if they need to remain in therapy for an extended length of time. But, if you care about your mental health and understanding your emotions, then you shouldn’t let this stop you.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to therapy and how long you will need it depends on a variety of different things, from your willingness to participate, to the specific situation that caused you to seek help. When you start attending therapy, you are encouraged to improve your understanding of your mental health, uncover where your issues stemmed from, and learn ways to enhance your happiness. Despite what you may think, you will keep the power to decide when you want to finish your treatment, and when the time comes to end your therapy, you will know.
Here are a few of the key things to consider when trying to figure out how long you will need therapy for.
Varies on the Person
Some people will be more receptive to therapy than others. People who go in prepared to share, and be more open and honest, will find their therapy sessions will usually last a lot less time than others. The level of engagement, participation, effort and commitment people bring with them will affect the success of their therapy. Those who make the most of every minute in their session talking and listening, and then reflecting on this back at home can potentially find themselves finished with therapy after only a handful of sessions.
Some people, for very good reasons, struggle to accept their situation and may find it more difficult to reflect in sessions. You might only be in therapy because your friends or family have encouraged you to, and you aren’t convinced it can help or are in denial. Therapists often have to work harder to support a client to accept what has happened to them, help them to understand their feelings and resolve any remaining hurt. Also, talking to a stranger about personal issues and situations can leave some people unwilling to share due to embarrassment or shame. Here, trust has to be built between the therapist and client, leading to a longer time in therapy. Once the client feels comfortable being open and honest, talking about their issues, the therapist can work on helping them to heal, understand and overcome any negative emotions.
Varies on the Situation or Issue
How severe and emotionally traumatising the situation is that has brought you to therapy often affects how long you are there for. Generally, when people are brought up in a nurturing environment, they are attending therapy for a certain recent issue or trauma that can be reflected upon and discussed in minimal sessions. This can be abortion, a death, mugging, job loss or even a divorce. These situations aren’t seen as less important than others, but because the person has no pre-existing issues, it is usually easy to get them to open up and talk about the specific situation. Just talking about their problems, grieving any losses and understanding and accepting the trauma can resolve these situations. However, time in therapy can still vary, for some they may only need one session while others visit for six months. Either way, mostly in these cases the therapy isn’t too long-term and can be very successful after only a handful of meetings.
However, when people have had a traumatising past, or have been repeatedly abused, neglected or shamed as a child, they may need to spend more time in therapy. As there is so much to talk about and resolve, people can find themselves in therapy for quite a while as they need to overcome all of the hurt and fear their past has left behind. Many people in this situation
feel they need to develop a relationship with their therapist before they can open up and talk more in depth about their experiences and how they feel. This makes the repair process generally slower as the therapist and client work on building trust in the initial sessions. But, this then paves the way for therapists to effectively listen and help their clients’ full understanding of their emotions and past.
Some people might think they are ready to end their weekly therapy, but not prepared to let go of it completely. Here, intermittent therapy can sometimes be beneficial, allowing people to come back to therapy a handful of times a year to discuss any current issues and make sure their mental health is still on-track.
Described as a ‘middle-road’ approach, intermittent therapy involves the initial sessions to tackle any pre-existing issues, with clients only returning for ‘top-ups’ as and when they require them in the following months or years. The client decides when they feel they need to book their sessions, which can help them feel empowered as they control their therapy rather than being told they need a certain amount of sessions, or to attend weekly.
This type of therapy is oriented towards improvement rather than a cure, as the client has control over their mental health, deciding when to seek outside help and when they can face something alone. With a flexible approach, it makes it perfect for people with busy lifestyles who may not be able to commit to weekly sessions after their initial meeting. However, it is important to remember that relying on intermittent therapy can mean you avoid difficult or painful issues rather than facing them ‘head on’ in weekly sessions. So, you may feel this kind of therapy takes ‘the edge’ off painful feelings, but in the long term the root cause of any issue can take far longer to address.
It’s Your Decision
Therapy can last as long or as short as you want it to. A good therapist shouldn’t pressure you into ending your treatment or extending your therapy, as you know you best. People should be able to understand their mental health and decide for themselves whether or not they feel comfortable ending their therapy. A therapist’s job is to help the client feel safe enough that they can look within themselves and understand their emotions. Once the person feels able to do this without help, they can have the confidence to face any ongoing or future issues themselves.
Whether you want to end therapy completely, lengthen the time in between sessions or try intermittent therapy is completely your choice. Therapists shouldn’t try to influence your decision but rather provide their expert advice on situations and your mental health.
Therapy can be scary to go into; speaking to a stranger and having no fixed end date is often enough to deter people. But, if you go in prepared and ready to openly share your issues and emotions, your sessions can be much more successful, and your treatment won’t last as long as you think. Even if you require therapy for an extended period of time, it can still be beneficial for those who don’t have family support or need an outsider’s opinion and advice. If you are interested in therapy, then contact me today for more information on the services I offer.