How Many Therapy Sessions Do I Need?

By Stephanie Kirby

Updated May 20, 2019

Reviewer Melinda Santa

While there are some questions regarding mental health that are easy and straight forward to answer, there are others that aren't. One of the questions that aren't always easy to answer is, "How many therapy sessions do I need?" It's information that a lot of people want to have before getting started, but it's not usually possible. Each mental health challenge and person is different. That means there is no one size fits all plan for treatment.

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Is Thera An Average Amount Of Sessions?

The average amount of sessions depends on the type of therapy that's being used. During your first therapy session, you can talk to your therapist to see how many sessions they think that you will need. They will need to hear from you, your situation, and what you are hoping to accomplish before having an answer for you.

Here are some of the most commonly used types of treatment and the average number of sessions:

Brief Therapy

This type of treatment is exactly how it sounds. During brief therapy patients work towards a specific goal. The average number of sessions ranges from six to twenty. However, there can be as many as forty and as few as one. When therapists use brief therapy, they focus on working forward towards the future instead of analyzing all the details of the past.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

During CBT sessions, a patient works to change their behaviors by changing their thinking. They learn how to identify wrong thoughts and replace them with better ones. On average, patients attend around 16 sessions.

Psychoanalysis

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This type of therapy can require years of therapy sessions. It works by diving into past experiences including repressed memories. It works with the unconscious mind. These treatment lengths can take time and should not be rushed.

Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing (EMDR)

This type of therapy works to help people recover from anxiety and mental health challenges by the way they move their eyes. There are also other strategies used such as hand tapping. Some studies show that patients make drastic progress after only three sessions.

Motivational Interviewing

These therapy sessions are often used with people that are struggling to overcome addiction or to take better care of themselves when living with health conditions such as diabetes. These sessions are used to help people find the internal motivation they need to make long-lasting changes. On average you should only need one to three sessions.

Will I Always Need To Go To Therapy?

In general, there should be an endpoint for your therapy sessions. However, there are some instances where that might not be in the best interest of the patient. People that struggle with extreme mental health challenges could benefit from attending therapy for life. This could be going to sessions regularly, such as once a week or once a month to keep things in check. Or, it could simply mean maintaining an ongoing relationship with a therapist, so they have access to help whenever they need it.

Then, some people will only need to attend therapy until their issue is corrected or they have learned how to manage it. For example, if a couple is attending marriage counseling, they will not need to continue going to therapy sessions once they have resolved the root of their conflict and learned the necessary skills to avoid the same problems going forward.

You may find that you end up in therapy at different points of your life for different reasons. In each one of these cases, you may reach a point where you no longer need to attend sessions until something new happens.

Is Therapy A Thing as Too Many Therapy Sessions?

The answer to this question will depend completely on your situation. For many people, therapy isn't something that needs to last forever. Your therapist should help you determine what goals you are working on and why you are attending therapy. Then, the therapy sessions should be based around helping you reach those goals. When that happens, your therapy would be complete.

For example, if someone is attending therapy because they struggle with therapy, their goal might be based on learning coping strategies they can use when they are starting to struggle. At that point, the therapist should be focused on helping them to achieve that goal and work themselves out of needing to attend therapy. When they have learned the strategies and know how to use them to manage their anxiety effectively, they will no longer need to attend therapy sessions.

The goal of any ethical therapist is to help you achieve what you need to and work through a treatment plan. If you have the feeling that your therapist is just trying to keep you coming to sessions because it's money in their pocket, you may have a bad therapist.

Becoming Dependent On Therapy

Some people struggle with becoming dependent on their therapy sessions. They are leery about ever stopping their sessions for fear of experiencing a setback. However, therapy is not meant to be a permanent solution in most cases (there are a few exceptions to this rule). But some people become dependent on therapy instead of the strategies they are learning in therapy. When this happens, a patient will resist ending a treatment plan.

How To Break Up With Your Therapist

If you no longer feel that you are benefiting from your therapy sessions, there are two things you need to consider.

  1. Do you feel that your struggles have been addressed? If you are no longer making progress, it may be because you have already achieved what you set out to do. If this is the case and your therapist is trying to keep you coming to sessions, it might be time to put an end to the sessions on your own.
  2. Do you feel that you still have things to work on? If you aren't getting anything out of your sessions but feel that there are still areas that you need to address, then you might be meeting with the wrong therapist for you. It doesn't necessarily mean that it's a bad therapist, but it does mean that you probably want to find a different one.

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You don't need to be nervous about breaking up with your therapist. The reason they are in your life is to help you address your mental health challenges. If they aren't getting the job done and helping you to make progress, then there isn't more that you need to think about. You can simply let them know that you would like to find another therapist to work with. You can provide them any feedback on why you are interested in switching. If your therapist has your best interest at heart, they may even be willing to provide you a recommendation for another therapist that you could try.

How To Find A Good Therapist?

Before choosing a therapist to work with, or a new therapist to work with, make sure you do your research. Look for a therapist that has experience in the area of mental health that you need to address. For example, if you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder then look for a therapist that specializes in this area. You also want to find a therapist you are comfortable with. It's ok to attend one session and then look for someone else. Or, see if you can talk with them on the phone first to see if you are a good fit. This can save both of your time because you'll find out if it's not going to be a good connection.

When looking for a therapist, you'll also want to know if your insurance covers any treatment. Many plans will 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 coverage that you have. But remember that the money you spend on your mental health is well worth it. It's an investment that will change your life, and you won't regret it.

Kick Shame To The Curb

One of the problems that stop people from getting the help they need is the stigma that surrounds mental health. People are embarrassed and ashamed because they feel there is something wrong with them or that everyone is judging them. The stigma is built on lies regarding mental health.

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Whether you need to go to therapy for a few sessions or a few years, you should never feel bad about it. That's what the stigma is causing. Seeking help from a professional is nothing that you should feel bad about. Instead, you should feel good that you are taking the action that you need to improve your life. There is no room for shame in mental wellness, and you deserve it.

Look for a local therapist or an online therapist to find the right match for you.


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