Many people want to know how long therapy will take, and it’s a fair question. When embarking on any endeavor, particularly one that will be emotional as well as an allocation of resources, we want to know what we’re getting into.
The answer to this question depends entirely on your reasons for seeking therapy. I often ask new clients, “How will we know when we’re done?” as a way to understand exactly what someone wants from therapy. While some people do seek therapy in an ongoing way to structure in reflection and support over the course of decades, most therapy-seekers do not want to be in therapy forever and have specific goals in mind when they start: reduce anxiety, improve relationships, recover from trauma, or get through a difficult time. These things can feel insurmountable when we’re in the thick of it, but a good therapist knows recovery is possible, as well as how to help you get there.
Having goals in mind is precisely where the conversation about how long therapy will take should start. When I feel connected to my partner again, or When I can drive without having a panic attack, or When I’m not haunted by thoughts of what happened are great goals and clear indicators that therapy is working. These goals may take time and you may feel frustrated you don’t feel better immediately; when we’re suffering, any amount of time enduring is too long. It’s important to give your therapist feedback about how progress is going if they don’t ask for it directly. Remember that your goals and healing will take some time, and they may not happen linearly. But again, a good therapist isn’t interested in keeping you in therapy forever. We want you to heal and go on to live a happier, more connected, and meaningful life.
At the end of the day, you get to decide how long you stay in therapy. Therapists can’t keep you in treatment against your will, nor do we want to. We understand that circumstances, resources, and motivation change. What we want is for you to feel a sense of hope, resilience, and progress, however incremental. If you’re feeling discouraged or confused about how therapy is going, talk to your therapist about the process as well as the content you’re discussing in therapy.
If you’re ready to explore therapy for the first time – or the tenth – contact me to set up a free consultation.
Laurel Therapy Collective
offers online therapy to California residents for anxiety, transitions, and trauma.