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How Long Does Therapy Last?
“How long are therapy sessions,” and “How long does therapy last?” These are typical questions you may find yourself asking when seeking individual therapy. Commonly, therapists see patients once every two weeks or once a week for what is known as the “therapeutic hour,” which usually lasts 50-55 minutes.
Therapy might last from one session to several months or even years. Everything is dependent on your wants and needs. Some patients find that one or two sessions are sufficient since they have a specific issue they must address when they begin therapy.1 However, no one therapy duration works for everyone because your demands and objectives are particular to you. Certain types of treatment even require daily appointments.2
The American Psychological Association reports that recent studies show that 50% of patients need an average of 15 to 20 sessions to recover. In addition, there are an increasing number of particular psychological treatments with a therapy duration of 12–16 weekly sessions that have been proven to provide clinically meaningful changes.
Furthermore, to achieve complete symptom remission and feel confident in your ability to maintain treatment gains, you and a therapist may want to opt for a longer therapy duration lasting 20 to 30 sessions over six months.3
Insurance may be able to help cover the cost of therapy. Find out if your insurance provider can help with the costs by filling in our confidential insurance verification form below.
What Can Impact Duration of Therapy?
Each person’s course of treatment for mental health issues will inevitably be different in length. The answer to “How long does therapy last” depends on an individual’s needs and goals. The type and length of treatment should always be suited to the nature and gravity of the patient’s presenting problems.
However, certain factors, such as price, convenience, and the type of mental health conditions a patient is experiencing, can impact therapy duration. In addition, compared to chronic issues, acute challenges typically require fewer therapy sessions.
Additionally, the severity of the depression affects how long a patient needs to receive treatment. It can require a few weeks or even longer. Frequently, 10 to 15 sessions are enough to see noticeable improvement.4
Furthermore, there is no set amount of time that each patient must spend in therapy for substance abuse. However, research has convincingly demonstrated that the proper length of therapy is necessary for successful outcomes. Generally speaking, involvement in residential or outpatient therapy for less than 90 days is of low effectiveness. Therefore, treatment lasting substantially longer is advised for maintaining beneficial outcomes.5
How Long is Too Long?
This depends on the circumstances surrounding your initial visit and the kind of therapy you have been receiving. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and couples counseling, for instance, tend to be shorter types of treatment.
When treating anxiety surrounding a fear of driving, for example, a set number of sessions — 10 to 20 — is decided upon at the start of this short-term therapy. The issue is then handled using a combination of talk therapy, relaxation exercises, and activities to help you get back behind the wheel. Then, once your symptoms have subsided, so does the therapist.
Even long term therapy eventually ends, whether it takes a year, two years, or longer. If you have a good relationship with your therapist, deciding to part ways should be a decision you make together.
Below are a few questions you might ask yourself if you’re thinking of leaving therapy:
- Am I not getting much out of therapy anymore?
- Do I get along with my therapist?
- If something is bothering you about your therapist, tell them. If you’re not making the improvements you want, you might need to see someone else.
- Have I reached the objectives my therapist and I established at the start?
- Can I manage to navigate the world on my own?
Examples of Therapy Duration Ranges From Athena Care Providers
Whether you prefer online therapy or in-person treatment, Athena Care’s multiple therapy offices in Tennessee provide evidence based therapy from qualified and skilled therapists Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Below, we’ve caught up with a few of these professionals as they use their years of experience to weigh in on how long therapy takes to produce results:
Mandy Frye, LCSW: The length of treatment is just as variable as the person being treated. Everyone comes in with their own set of challenges and messages that they’ve gained over the years. Some are very deeply ingrained and take time to uncover and heal. Others are very aware of the things that they have been telling themselves or the messages that they have received from others and allowed to take root.
To me, the length of therapy depends on how deeply ingrained the trauma or pain is, how easily someone is able to recognize the themes of what they took away from that experience and how prepared they are to face it. In relation to trauma specifically, EMDR can be completed in as little as 1-2 sessions, but more typically, it is an ongoing process that lasts as long as things continue to surface that need to be dealt with.
For many, therapy is a touch point that even after they feel they have healed and dealt with their issues, they want to keep it in their lives periodically to have that safe place to reflect, gain a different perspective and be encouraged on their journey.
Mary Winslow, LCSW: Results in therapy may come in a moment when the right word resonates with a client. Words like “abandonment” phrases like “living your values are very important to you.” Laughing together because they made a funny face while telling a story has the power to transform. Suggesting a book on trauma or poetry that reframes anger or unrequited love change the landscape. Therapists’ attitudes of empathy, genuineness and respect for clients open the door for potential and development of the self.
Clients may feel a sense of change in therapy at their first session. If they feel comfortable with that therapist, the stage is set for future productive sessions. Therapy does not have to be forever as three sessions may create seeds of change that the client appreciates. Clients can do work at home with journaling, workbooks and videos and then check back with a therapist as needed according to their schedule.
Clients can benefit from several weeks of sessions, three to six months when facing greater life challenges or ongoing life situations such as job changes, relationship issues, loss and bereavement.
Clients who face chronic mental illness, anger, depression, anxiety, loss of hope for extended periods of time may need longer therapy which starts with weekly sessions then changes to bi weekly or monthly sessions for a year or more.
- FAQs, By Therapy. “How Long Does Therapy Last?” GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog, 27 Oct. 2017, www.goodtherapy.org/blog/faq/how-long-does-therapy-last.
- Su, Elizabeth. “The Science Behind How Long Therapy Takes.” Talkspace, 1 Aug. 2022, www.talkspace.com/blog/how-long-does-therapy-take-science.
- “How Long Will It Take for Treatment to Work?” American Psychological Association, July 2017, www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/length-treatment.
- “What Is Depression?” American Psychiatric Association, Oct. 2020, psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression.
- “How Long Does Drug Addiction Treatment Usually Last?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 3 June 2020, nida.nih.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-long-does-drug-addiction-treatment-usually-last.
If you suspect that you or someone you love suffers from mental health disorders, contact Athena Care today.
One of our friendly associates will help you get the help you need. Take this first step to feel better and take control.