How long does therapy take to reach the desired goal?
People often ask me how long therapy will take. As with many questions in therapy, there are no simple black and white answers. The length of therapy depends on several factors. The first factor is the length of time that the symptoms have affected the client. Generally, the longer the person has experienced the symptom (anxiety or depression) or engaged in the behavior (cutting or drug abuse), the longer it takes to resolve the issue.
The second factor is the level of the client’s insight. The more aware the person is, the quicker the mood improves or the maladaptive behavior is unlearned. And it would make sense. First the person has to identify their mood or behavior before they can do anything about it. Then once we have discussed coping strategies, then the person can implement the change process once they recognize what’s going on.
The third factor has to do with any genetic disposition to the problem. If there’s a family history of depression or mental illness, then we are probably looking at a chemical imbalance stemming from hereditary issues.
This makes depression, for example, somewhat harder to work with than say a person who has situational depression.
Another factor deals with the client’s readiness and willingness to do the assigned homework necessary to implement change. Again, as a rule of thumb, the person who is ready to change and motivated to try a different approach to dealing with their problem, will need less time in therapy.
The severity of the problem also dictates the course of therapy. Severe depression or anxiety will be harder to treat than a mild case of the blues.
And lastly, the frequency and consistency of therapy is correlated with the duration of therapy. As with most goals, the more time you put in the faster you reach your goals. So weekly therapy will help to challenge the old ways of operating and decrease the time in my office.