Every person has a different reason for seeing a therapist, and every problem is different. For these reasons, it can be difficult to estimate how long therapy may take. I often suggest to people that they try it out for about 10 sessions; by that time, even if they aren’t where they want to be, they have some sense of how treatment works and whether they feel we’re moving toward their goals.
More often than not, I see people for about 15 to 20 sessions. For some it’s longer, for others it’s shorter. The point I want to make is this: therapy may take some time, but it doesn’t have to take years. Your time is valuable.
As you might imagine, the more global the problem, the longer therapy may take. For example, if you’ve had relatively few problems in your life but recently developed panic attacks after some work stress, this is a pretty tidy problem and need not take a long time to address.
Additionally, I mentioned earlier, the length of treatment can also vary widely with goals. Many people want to learn some skills to manage their lives more effectively, and once they feel they have a handle on things, they’re ready to move on. Other people are more interested in fine-tuning their lives and really enjoy the process of therapy across the long-term. Neither view is right or wrong, and therapy can accommodate both.
Change is hard—for all of us. In every one moment, we have the option of doing something new, but it’s very easy to continue repeating the same patterns because we’re so practiced at it. To make changes, we must first notice what we’re doing that isn’t working; only then can we try something different in the moment. This can be tricky. I work to help people make choices that are more in accordance with what they want in their lives.
As you think about taking this step, one thing to consider is that months of therapy may be a small investment if it allows you live the life you want.
However, this doesn’t mean you need to give the therapist complete control over the direction of treatment. It’s fair and often very helpful to ask, “What are we doing here? I don’t understand where treatment is going.” There’s no sense in staying in treatment if it doesn’t seem to be helping and you don’t see how it could.
If you’ve been thinking about therapy, I encourage you to give it a shot—even if for a few months. It could make the difference between the life you’re living and the life you want to live.
So, whether you are looking for a Miami, Florida or Portland, Oregontherapist, I encourage you to focus less on “how long?” and more on “where do I want to be going with my life and how might therapy help me get there?”
Brian Thompson, Ph.D – Dr. Thompson is a Licensed Psychologist in Oregon. He uses evidence-based approaches to psychotherapy, primarily Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.Contact us if you are looking for an excellent Portland, Oregon therapist.