It depends! It is quite common for people to feel better after attending a few sessions of therapy. This can be attributed to a bit of a placebo effect. You start attending therapy, you become hopeful of things getting better, you have a therapist you like, and you are able to share with them some of your struggles. It makes sense to feel better initially in therapy for some folks. And some people even end therapy after a few sessions because of this placebo high. However, oftentimes issues come back, the depression, the anxiety, they all start to creep back in and you might find yourself back where you started. Instead of asking how long does therapy take to work, think of it as a process.
Therapy is like peeling back the layers of an onion. Each session helps to peel back a layer to eventually get to the core of that onion. If you have been struggling with these issues for some time, there are likely several layers that need to be peeled back to get to that core. Even more so, if you are an excellent avoider and/or distracter, it’s likely that those layers are challenging to pull apart.
How Long Does Therapy Take: A Session Timeline
The length of therapy depends on each client and your specific needs. How many counselling sessions you need to meet your goals could be completely different than others. All that being said, this is what we tend to see in therapy:
- Sessions 1-4: Client experiences hopefulness that things will get better and hence tend to feel better. Clients get some relief from their symptoms with this bout of hopefulness. Clients feel supported by their therapist and have likely even learned a few new coping tools. Clients may even think to end treatment at this stage (although it is not advised if you want lasting effects).
- Sessions 5-9: Clients can feel challenged by therapy. Symptoms often become more noticeable and it can feel like symptoms have increased, although oftentimes it’s just that we are more aware of our struggles. Clients can feel discouraged that therapy isn’t “working” as quickly as they anticipated, and often wonder, “how long does therapy take to make me feel better?” It is not uncommon for clients to drop out of therapy at this stage as it feels like “too much work” or “it’s not working” when the reality is, this struggle is common and expected in the therapy process. We are digging into deep-seeded issues and attachment injuries that are difficult to face. This makes it all the more important to continue with therapy in order to put these concerns at rest.
- Session 10-16: The length of therapy starts to pay off and things start to come together. Symptoms have decreased. The ability to cope with symptoms has improved. Overall life functioning and relationship functioning has improved. Clients feel more calm and at peace. Clients have gained insight and understanding into their symptoms and behaviors. Clients feel more confident in managing their struggles on their own.
- Session 16+ (Maintenance sessions): After completing 12-16 sessions of therapy clients tend to feel much better and can often times function on their own outside of therapy. It can, however, be particularly beneficial to continue biweekly or monthly sessions at this point. These maintenance sessions can help clients to maintain the gains of their treatment progress and to address any issues that may be attempting to hijack their growth.
How Many Counselling Sessions Are Recommended?
At Freedom Within Center, we recommend that if clients do decide to engage in face-to-face counseling services (or online counseling services), that they give it at least 3-4 sessions to make sure their therapist is a good fit. If the therapist is a good fit then expect to remain in treatment at least through 9 sessions to start to see the benefits of the therapy process. This is because it takes a substantial amount of time for change to happen and for your therapist to get to know you and develop a plan to help you work towards your own sense of freedom. Many of the evidence-based therapy treatments we use request that folks remain in treatment for 12 sessions to achieve maximum results.
Keep in mind that one of the most important factors that contribute to effective change is the relationship you have with your therapist. At Freedom Within Center, we do our best to connect with our clients and make you feel comfortable during this process. If for any reason, you do not feel your therapist is the best fit for you let us know and we will gladly connect you with one of our other amazing counselors.
To learn more about the therapy process, or to book your first session, contact us today.