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Man in his first session with his therapist, wondering how many sessions he’ll need to reach his goals.

How Many Sessions Does It Take for Therapy to Work?

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Thinking about starting therapy? You may be wondering how long you’ll be in therapy until you feel better. Or, maybe you’ve had one or two sessions and are wondering how many more it will take to start working. 

Everyone’s experience in therapy is different. There are various factors that play into how many sessions you’ll need for therapy to work. Here are a few of them. 

The goals you set to achieve in therapy 

Feeling better may just be one goal you set in therapy. You may have other goals you want to achieve, too, such as improving your relationships with others or learning to deal with conflict better. In the first few sessions with your therapist, you’ll discuss the goals you want to achieve, including what your ultimate “end goal” is. How many sessions it takes to achieve these goals will depend on what they are and how quickly you make progress towards them. 

The pace and length of therapy depends on your needs and goals. However, research has shown that clients maximize their benefits from therapy by having weekly sessions early on. Then, you can work with your therapist to figure out the best pace moving forward.

Your symptoms and treatment plan 

The more severe your symptoms are, the more sessions you may need to reach your therapy goals. How long you’ve been experiencing these symptoms can also impact how many sessions you’ll need. 

Your therapist will work with you to develop a treatment plan to help you manage the symptoms you’re experiencing and make progress toward your goals. If your treatment plan works well, you may not need a lot of sessions to reach your therapy goals. 

That being said, your treatment plan may change over time, especially if you feel it isn’t working, or if your goals have changed. You’ll always work with your therapist to make changes to your treatment plan to decide what’s right for you. If you decide with your therapist that it could be beneficial to try a different treatment plan, you may need more sessions to see how it’s working. 

It may take time for treatment to work. This is OK. What matters is that you feel supported in therapy and that you’re making progress. 

Your progress in therapy

Speaking of progress, it plays a big role in how many sessions you need to reach your therapy goals.  Progress looks different for everyone. Perhaps progress means your symptoms are less severe, you have healthier thought patterns, you sleep better, or you have improved relationships with others. 

Therapy is not a race, it’s a journey. It’s OK if it takes months or years of therapy to make progress and reach your goals. Roadblocks can happen. You may start to feel better, but then, for some reason or another, old symptoms or feelings can start to creep back into your life again. This is normal and can happen throughout your therapy journey. 

It’s important to talk to your therapist when you feel you’re starting to backslide in therapy. They can help you get back on track. This may or may not mean more sessions with your therapist. It depends on how you agree to address and work on your symptoms. 

Outside factors 

Your therapist may give you homework or assignments to complete in between sessions to help you stay on track with your progress. The more work you do outside of therapy, the quicker you may reach your therapy goals. 

Unexpected life changes, however, can happen— such as losing a loved one or ending a relationship — and can sometimes cause you to backslide in therapy. To help you cope with change and get back on track with your therapy goals, you may have more frequent sessions with your therapist. 

You may also develop new goals when change occurs. This may add time to your therapy journey. Again, this is OK. It’s all part of the ride. Therapy is there to help you cope through these changes, no matter how many sessions it takes. 

Your journey is unique 

Whether you’re in therapy for three sessions or for years, your journey is unique to you. 

Therapy’s purpose is to help you feel better and reach your goals — no matter how long it takes. 

It can be helpful to go into therapy with an open mind, and focus on what you want to achieve. 

Connecting with the right therapist who helps you through unexpected challenges and works with you to develop a plan to reach your goals is key. If you haven’t connected with a therapist yet and feel you may be ready to, SonderMind can help.

Last Updated:
Published:
First Published:
November 17, 2022

Sources:

American Psychological Association. (2017, July). How long will it take for treatment to work? Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/length-treatment

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016, March 17). Psychotherapy. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/psychotherapy/about/pac-20384616

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