How Many Therapy Sessions Do I Need? The Variability Of Therapy
Therapy can be an enriching experience for clients looking to process their feelings, manage mental health difficulties, and face life's challenges. Throughout treatment sessions, it can help you learn more about yourself, develop new skills, and take the next step in life while maintaining a sense of commitment to your ongoing exploration and personal growth.
There are many factors to consider when starting therapy. One of the most common things people wonder about is how many therapy sessions they need. Multiple factors determine the answer to this question, but research offers some general guidelines to keep in mind when getting started.
What factors determine the number of therapy sessions?
Your mental health issues
What you’re being treated for, how severe your symptoms are, and how long you’ve had your symptoms can all affect how many therapy sessions you need. Generally, people with more severe mental health issues who have had symptoms for a long time may need more therapy sessions, but this is not always the case.
Some research shows that, although it depends on patient responsiveness, the number of cognitive behavioral therapy sessions for people with depression varies according to symptom severity. For example, someone with mild depression may need eight to 12 therapy sessions, while someone with severe depression may need 16 or more. For people with psychosis, research shows that they may see an improvement in symptoms after 15 sessions, with the most symptom improvement in 25 sessions.
How quickly you make progress
When you start therapy, you will set goals with your therapist, including how long you expect therapy to last. At this point, treatment length is flexible, as neither you nor your therapist knows how treatment will proceed. Throughout your sessions, your therapist will conduct evaluations to assess progress, and the two of you will work together to set a new goal.
There is no way to tell how quickly you will progress. Some people attending a one-hour session once a week may progress just as quickly as others who go twice a week. One study found that starting with more frequent sessions may produce better results, meaning that going more frequently at the beginning and then cutting back may be beneficial. Researchers believe this may be because the therapist and patient form an alliance quicker or because patients may learn how to apply what they learn in therapy more quickly.
If you’re considering treatment, talk to your therapist to determine what is right for you.
The type of therapy
There are multiple approaches to therapy. When you meet with your therapist for the first time, you may talk about the right approach for you and your mental health. Some types may take longer to see results than others.
For example, clinical practice guidelines from the American Psychological Association (APA) for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) show that the treatment length may greatly depend on the type of treatment. Per these guidelines, someone undergoing prolonged exposure therapy may need to attend one 60 to 120-minute weekly session for as long as 30 weeks, and someone in cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD may require four to 16 sessions spread out over one or two 60 to 120-minute sessions a week over four to 16 weeks.
How many sessions should I expect to attend?
There’s no way to estimate how many sessions someone will need to attend to get the full benefits of therapy, but research does give some insights into what is typical. According to the APA:
On average, 15 to 20 sessions are enough for 50% of patients to self-report that they have recovered from symptoms.
Many psychological treatments that last a moderate duration, like weekly sessions for 12 to 16 weeks, result in significant clinical improvements.
Many therapists and patients ultimately prefer to continue treatment to ensure remissions and that the patient is confident in the skills they need to continue in a positive direction after therapy.
People with complex or concurring mental health disorders may need longer treatment and attend sessions for 12 to 18 months or longer.
How do you know when therapy ends?
There are a few things to consider when determining the length of treatment. Generally, therapy ends when you meet the goals that you have set with your therapist.
How do I find the right therapist?
Before choosing a new or different therapist to work with, it can be helpful to do some research. Look for a therapist with experience in an area of mental health that you’d like to address. You’ll also likely want to find a therapist you are comfortable with. Requesting a free consultation to find out whether you are a good fit is ok. This can save both of you time in the long run. If it’s not a good fit, you can change therapists.
When looking for a therapist, you may also want to know whether your insurance covers your treatment. Some plans cover a certain number of sessions. If you have this information, you can talk to your therapist and ask if any treatment options will be a good fit for your coverage. You should also make sure the provider is licensed. You can usually find this information by asking the therapist directly, doing a web search, or working with an online platform that vets its mental health professionals.
What are the benefits of online therapy?
Studies show that online therapy can help address many mental health concerns. A study focused on online therapy for college students found that treatment could significantly reduce symptoms of common mental disorders, with more significant improvements achieved as more online sessions were conducted. Online treatment was found effective for treating stress, depression, insomnia, and social anxiety disorder in students in the study. Researchers noted combining therapist support with specific lessons led to significant positive outcomes.
If you’re ready to start therapy, a platform like BetterHelp can connect you with a licensed therapist who fits your needs and preferences. BetterHelp works with thousands of qualified mental health professionals—practicing across a range of specialties—so you can be matched with someone experienced in your specific areas of concern. A mental health provider can answer any questions you have about therapy and guide you through the process so that it’s a fulfilling, healthy experience.
Read below for reviews of BetterHelp therapists from those who have sought help.
“I swear he’s the best therapist I ever had. I know I’m a person who talks a lot but he lets me talk, he actively listens, and he relates to me a lot. He understands my situations and provides me with excellent advice when it comes to how to respond to my difficult situations. He always gives me assurance and support and I truly appreciate him. He is strong support for me right now when it comes to my mental and emotional issues.”
“Kathryn has been an ever-present source of stability and calm during a few tumultuous years. She never fails to show up and be 100% there for you during sessions. She is very mailable and will act as your mirror, friend, guide, or counsel, depending on what you need from her. I feel very lucky to have worked with her.”
Further reading about counseling
- What Is Solution-Based Therapy?
- The Benefits Of Behavioral Counseling Sessions And Other Therapies
- Is Phone Counseling/Therapy Appropriate?
- CBT Counseling – A Breakdown
- Why Online Psychotherapy Is Becoming So Popular
- Is Online Counseling Chat Effective?
- What Can Be Expected From Couples Counseling?
- Have Counseling Questions? We Can Help Answer Them
- Top Online Counseling: What Are The Best Online Counseling Sites?
- Would Your Family Benefit From Family Therapy Counseling Online?
- Best Online Counseling: How Are The “Best” Online Therapy Websites Ranked?
- Complete Guide To Free Relationship Advice (And Where to Get Therapy Online)
- Are Online Therapy Sites Effective?
- Benefits Of Premarital Counseling Online
- Are You Feeling Lonely? Online Counseling Is Here To Help
- Is Premarital Counseling Necessary?
- Couples Counseling Cost - Important Factors to Consider
- Marriage Counseling - How Will It Work For You And Your Relationship?
- What Could Be Gained From Child And Family Counseling?
- Your Options In Receiving Counseling Help
- Professional Counseling Services In Daily Life
- Anger Counseling: Finding A Root Of Anger And Addressing It
- Become Closer With Online Relationship Counseling
- Reasons To Look For Relationship Counseling Online
- Sex Addiction Counseling Benefits
- Do Grief Counseling Techniques Work?
- Online Counseling UK Success Stories
- 5 Surprising Things About Online Counseling Services
- Online Counseling Service Studies: What Conditions Can Be Helped
- Benefits Of Grief Counseling
- Benefits Of Sexual Abuse Counseling
- How Does Marriage Counseling Online Work For Two People?
- Benefits Of Online Anger Management Counseling
- How Effective Is Online Counseling For Depression?
- How Can Life Counseling Services Help You?
- Family Counseling: How To Resolve Conflict
- How To Talk To Your Spouse About Online Marriage Counseling
- Top Three Couples Counseling Exercises
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
How many sessions of therapy are effective?
The number of therapy sessions that a person will need can vary extensively. Sometimes, a person will gain the clarity they need from a handful of therapy sessions. Other times, a person will need more extensive mental health care or support, as may be the case for those with ongoing mental health challenges or other persistent concerns. When you start seeing a mental health care professional for talk therapy, it is common to discuss your goals. Your goals may be part of what informs how long you work with a mental health professional. Once you feel that you’ve gotten what you need out of therapy, whether it is in person or online, you may choose to stop working with a therapist for the time being. Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp allow you to cancel your plan easily when you need to for any reason.
What usually happens during a therapy session?
What happens during a therapy session depends on a number of factors, such as why you’re attending therapy, the modality that your therapist uses, and the kind of care that you need from the therapist you work with. Some examples of what might happen during a therapy session include:
Reflecting on your week or discussing how life has been since your previous session.
Talking about what has gone well recently and/or what you would like to work on right now.
Asking your therapist questions.
Learning new coping skills or tools that you can use outside of therapy.
Brainstorming solutions for problems that you run into in your daily life.
The therapy services a person receives in online therapy are often similar to those that a person receives in person therapy. For example, even if therapy is conducted over video chat, the modalities or techniques that mental health professionals use may remain the same.
How do I know if I need therapy?
There are a number of reasons why someone might find it beneficial to work with a therapist. Reasons a person may benefit from mental health services include but aren’t restricted to:
General emotional support and/or progress toward personal goals
Help with mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, and eating disorders.*
Stress management. A therapist might offer emotional support and help you find coping tools or changes you can make in life to help manage stress.
Relationship improvement. This can include marriage preparation (via premarital counseling), help with communication, or improved intimacy.
Help with moving through life transitions and challenging times, such as grief, loss, a move, or a divorce.
Help with concerns such as self harm.**
Support in coping with a physical health condition or concern that impacts your well being.
A person may also seek support for guidance in their career, life skills, or any other area of life. If you’re interested in working with a mental health professional for talk therapy, there are a number of ways to cover the cost. For those who work with companies who have employee assistance programs or employee health plans that include mental health services, this can help cover the cost. One possible restriction of using employee assistance programs or health insurance is that you will have to work with a provider who takes that form of health insurance or who is covered via your employee assistance program. However, there are other resources that can help if these aren’t options for you. You might choose to get care through an affordable online therapy platform or see someone who offers sliding scale rates.
*Please contact the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline (NEDA) via call or text at 1-800-931-2237 if you or someone you know lives with an eating disorder or might be.
**If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available 24/7.
If you are looking for someone who offers in-person therapy or online therapy and accepts your insurance plan, you may choose to contact your insurance company directly. You can often call the phone number on the back of your insurance card, go to your health insurance company’s website, or search for healthcare professionals online who take your insurance. You may also ask other healthcare professionals, such as your primary care provider, for a referral.
What is the most effective therapy?
The most effective kind of therapy varies based on why you are seeking therapy services. For example, a couple needing help with their relationship may benefit most from a modality that is different from one that would be most advantageous for an individual seeking help with trauma, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), an anxiety disorder, or another mental health condition. Further, each of these conditions may benefit from different modalities. For example, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), someone with PTSD might benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Someone with OCD may benefit most from exposure and response prevention (ERP), which is a type of CBT. Learning about the different types of therapy, what they’re used for, and what they might look like during a therapy session can aid you in determining what type (or types) of therapy you might find most helpful.
You don’t have to live with a mental health condition to benefit from therapy, and people seek mental health support for a number of different reasons.
There are many different forms of mental health care. If the first kind of therapy or the first therapist doesn’t work for you, it is okay to try something new. In couples therapy, group therapy, individual therapy, and family therapy, many modalities can be used. Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp make it easy to switch therapists if you need to. The therapists on the platform are all licensed professionals, and their areas of expertise vary.
Different types of communication in therapy may be more effective for different people. Many individuals who get therapy online enjoy using video chat to speak with their therapist, but some prefer audio or phone calls. With online therapy platforms like BetterHelp, you can also use in-app messaging to reach out with a question, an update, or anything else you have to say in between therapy sessions.
What kind of therapy is best for anxiety?
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the best types of therapy for various anxiety disorders. It can also be used for many other mental health conditions and concerns, including life stress. CBT can be conducted via online therapy services and platforms or in traditional therapy settings. Studies demonstrate the effectiveness of CBT conducted via online therapy, and some prefer online therapy over in-person therapy due to affordability and convenience.
Sometimes, multiple forms of mental health care are used in conjunction with one another for a person’s treatment plan. For example, many people who live with anxiety disorders and other mental health conditions find that a combination of medication management*** and therapy helps them with symptom reduction. An individual might see a therapist, psychologist, or another mental health care professional for talk therapy and another professional, such as a psychiatrist or their primary care physician, for medication management.
***BetterHelp does not prescribe medication or provide medication management services. Please consult with your doctor before you start, stop, or change a medication regimen.
Support groups and group therapy, while different, can also both be helpful for someone who is living with anxiety or another mental health condition. A person may choose to attend both individual therapy sessions and group therapy sessions or a support group. While support groups don’t replace in-person or online therapy services, they can be a helpful addition and important resource for many.
Is 6 sessions of Counselling enough?
What is the average length of therapy?
What is the success rate of therapy?
Is therapy every 2 weeks enough?
When should I stop therapy?
How do you know therapy is working?
Is 12 therapy sessions enough?
Is therapy once a month OK?
How long does therapy take to work?
How long is a good therapy session?
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