Schedule Therapy In A Way That Works For You

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox
Updated January 10, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It can feel intimidating to start the process of seeking therapy, whether you’re hoping to find treatment for a mental health condition or simply want a neutral, unbiased person to talk to about challenges you may be experiencing in your life. Understanding the therapeutic process, including the time commitment required, may make the process of starting treatment less daunting. A therapy schedule may look different for each individual, depending on their treatment needs and what they are hoping to accomplish in therapy. If you’re looking to create a regimen that works well for you, consider the following information:

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What Kind Of A Commitment Does Therapy Require?

How often you attend therapy sessions and how long each session lasts can vary depending on your specific situation and the type of treatment plan you and your therapist agree to. One of the most widely practiced forms of therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, which many psychologists consider to be the gold standard of treatment for a variety of mental health conditions, is typically practiced in sessions lasting around 45 minutes. A person seeking cognitive-behavioral therapy may attend one session a week for a few months. 

Other forms of therapy may involve different time frames. If you are participating in couples therapy, family therapy, or group therapy, those appointments can last longer than 45 minutes. This could be to ensure that all participants are able to express their thoughts and feelings. With some methods of trauma therapy such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), for instance, intense memories can arise that may require longer sessions. In these cases, more time may be required to process emotions and decompress afterward. You and your therapist can work together to determine the right course of action to address your concerns. From there, you might decide what session length may be most effective for you.

Research has found that attending therapy may be most effective under the following circumstances: weekly sessions for around 45 minutes each over the course of 12 to 16 weeks. This may work out to around three to four months of weekly therapy. You might not need to follow any particular scheduling model, though, just a schedule that works for you and your therapist. 

Therapy As A Flexible Process

Ideally, therapy is a collaborative relationship between a licensed professional counselor and their client. Your therapist may not be able to dictate how often they believe you should attend therapy sessions. Likewise, it’s not likely you’ll be able to meet with your therapist whenever you want. Still, after several initial sessions of talk therapy, your therapist may have a clearer sense of what might be the most helpful scheduling system moving forward.  The two of you can then have a discussion and devise a plan together.

If you are attending therapy with the intention of addressing a specific issue or reaching a concrete, defined goal, you may not need to attend therapy for multiple months. Some people seek therapy as an additional support system when they are experiencing a life transition such as moving to a new city or starting a new job, for example. In these instances, you may not need to attend therapy past the initial period of life change. 

If you hope to use therapy to help achieve a goal or make a specific change in your life, your therapist may encourage a solutions-focused brief therapy approach. This can involve brainstorming a plan for accomplishing your goal in the most efficient and effective way. For example, if you want to have fewer arguments with the people you love, you and your therapist may plan a brief, intensive therapeutic course focused on anger management. 

If you are attending therapy because of a mental health condition or ongoing concerns in your life such as relationship challenges or past trauma, you may need to attend therapy for longer than a few months. Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can wax and wane, meaning you may need to attend therapy regularly to help address your symptoms. 

Therapy can be an adaptive and flexible process, especially if you have found a licensed therapist you connect with and who is willing to work with you on a range of different concerns. You may start a course of therapy intending to attend weekly sessions for roughly four months, then realize you need a deeper course of treatment that lasts longer. You and your therapist might have regular check-ins where you reassess the goals you have set for your treatment and the progress that you have made toward those goals, determining if the current therapy schedule and timeline continue to make sense or if adjustments should be made. 

It can also be beneficial to have regular check-ins with yourself. You may want to ask yourself questions like, “Am I receiving the benefits I’m seeking from therapy?”, “Is my current course of treatment having the impact I hoped it would have?”, and “What are my goals and hopes for my therapeutic involvement?”. You can choose to change your therapy schedule or even end therapy if you feel your goals have been met. 

Factors That Can Influence Scheduling Therapy

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The following factors may impact how you choose to schedule your therapy sessions: 

  • The reason you sought out mental health services
  • How long you have experienced the concerns, challenges, thoughts, or feelings that brought you to therapy
  • The extent to which your concerns, challenges, thoughts, or feelings are impacting your life
  • Your individual level of motivation to work on yourself
  • The cost of therapy, considering any insurance coverage
  • Your therapist’s availability (i.e., if there is a waiting list or you can’t schedule appointments with your therapist as often or soon as you would like)
  • Transportation (not typically a concern if you pursue online therapy)

Finding Ways To Conveniently Schedule Therapy

It can be complicated to determine what type of therapy schedule works for you. Even when you have a sense of how often you’d like to attend therapy, it can still be difficult to book your sessions. Between packed calendars, conflicting responsibilities, and commute times, it can be challenging to attend in-person therapy sessions. If you’re seeking couples or group therapy with a licensed marriage and family therapist, that can add an additional layer of complexity to the scheduling process. Online therapy may offer more flexibility and allow you to attend appointments more often, potentially accelerating the pace of your treatment. With online platforms like BetterHelp, you can connect with a therapist through phone calls, video chats, or in-app messaging and meet with them from anywhere you have an internet connection. This can give you more freedom and flexibility when determining what you need from therapy and how often you’d like to participate in sessions. 

The Efficacy Of Online Therapy

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Want To Know More About Getting Therapy On Your Schedule?

Research has demonstrated that online therapy may have similar outcomes to in-person therapy when it comes to addressing symptoms of mental health conditions. One study found that web-based therapy can help treat a variety of mental health disorders, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and phobias. Online therapy may be a more convenient treatment option because of the flexibility in scheduling, and it may also be more cost-effective than traditional in-person therapy.  

Takeaway

The process of scheduling therapy can look different for each individual, depending on their background, therapy needs, scheduling requirements, and more. Together, you and your therapist can develop a treatment plan that includes a schedule that works for both of you and supports your goals. If you are experiencing difficulties with scheduling in-person therapy appointments, online therapy could be a helpful alternative. With online therapy, you can schedule sessions at any time, from anywhere, as long as you have a stable internet connection. This may make it easier to get the care you need. Reach out to BetterHelp today and get matched with a licensed online counselor. 

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