How Many Therapy Sessions Do I Need?
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated January 27, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Melinda Santa
While there are some questions regarding mental health that are easy and straightforward to answer, there are others that aren't. One of the questions that isn’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.
Is There 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 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:
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.
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.
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, and 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 There Such 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.
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 hesitant to ever stop 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 new or different 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.
Easier Sessions Through BetterHelp
Studies show that internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy is useful for treating a number of different mental health symptoms and concerns. As discussed previously, cognitive-behavioral therapy is a method of treatment that helps people reframe their negative or unhelpful thoughts. Online therapy sessions have proven to be effective ways of facilitating CBT in order to help with an array of mental health issues. A study that focused on online treatments for college students found that greater improvement was achieved as more online sessions were utilized. Internet-based counseling was found to effectively treat stress, depression, insomnia, and social anxiety disorder in the students. Researchers noted that the combination of therapist support with specific lessons led to significant positive outcomes.
With BetterHelp, you will have access to thousands of licensed mental health professionals, so you can find someone who knows exactly how to help you, instead of being limited to the therapists in your area. One of the problems that stop people from getting the help they need is the stigma that can accompany reaching out for help. BetterHelp provides complete privacy, allowing you to access resources and therapy sessions from the comfort of your home, without having to sit in waiting rooms or discuss your concerns with anyone but your therapist. Read below for reviews of BetterHelp’s licensed therapists from those who have attended multiples sessions with them.
“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 difficulty situations. He always gives me assurance and support and I truly appreciate him. He is a 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.”
Whether you need to go to therapy for a few sessions or a few years, it is a decision that can have lasting positive impacts on your life. Seeking help from a professional is nothing that you should feel bad about. Instead, you should feel proud 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. Reach out to a therapist today.
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