How often should I go to therapy?
The initial stages of your therapy journey can be full of questions, and many times, the most common questions involve the frequency and effectiveness of the sessions themselves. When starting anything, it's natural to want to know what to expect in terms of results. How quickly will we see the outcome that we want? And what do we have to do to get it? Much of this is answered by taking a look at the frequency of your therapy sessions.
The general rule of thumb for the frequency of sessions is once per week, especially in the beginning. Therapy requires a concentrated effort on a consistent basis to realize the fullest benefits from the therapeutic relationship - in other words, it takes work to get good results. If that's not possible, many therapists will advise no less than twice monthly sessions. Once-monthly sessions tend to hinder a client’s progress and prolong the length of time spent in therapy - it’s simply not enough time and not often enough support to develop significant change.
As for how long you may want to continue sessions for, that relies on several factors. Your therapist will assess your issues, and together you’ll arrive at a plan of treatment and goals for your therapy outcome. How long you struggled with a particular set of issues or feelings, how much they are impacting your day-to-day life, and how motivated you are to resolve them are all components that influence the appropriate number of therapy sessions. Cost, scheduling availability and transportation can all be important factors as well, and should be considered in advance as you work out your overall ability to commit to your therapeutic process. To that end, it’s important to be upfront about how often you can realistically attend your sessions.
When thinking about success rates, there are two important stages to consider: “reliable improvement” and “full recovery,” each one with their own general timeline. Reliable improvement - meaning noticeable positive effects - has been found to be achieved in a relatively short amount of time. According to research, quite a few clients (about 30%), may only need three or so sessions to achieve very worthwhile benefits. About 50% are likely to have achieved worthwhile benefit after eight sessions and approximately 75% after fourteen. Full recovery, then, further depends on the depth and nature of your particular situation and varies pretty widely.
As in most areas of our lives, commitment and hard work make a big difference. With cognitive and behavioral therapies, clients who actively work on relevant challenges or homework between therapy sessions add considerably to the effectiveness of therapy. The more you apply yourself to the process, the faster you’ll start to see benefits.
As far as journeys go, your therapy sessions offer a pathway to better mental health, more refined coping mechanisms, improved sleep - the list goes on and on. Working closely with a trusted therapist that is a good fit for you in weekly sessions can bring out noticeable improvements rather quickly when you consider how long you may have been living without therapy and trying to handle everything yourself. Bringing a therapist onto your team and following their lead is a great way to bring about meaningful change - you’ll see that a weekly commitment is well worth the time and effort.