What Determines the Length of Therapy? Susan Adams Licensed Marriage And Family TherapistMarriage Counseling | Couples Counselor | Couples Therapists | Marriage Counselors

What Determines the Length of Therapy?

The length of time people spend in therapy has to do with how well they learn new habits.

People call me regularly to ask how long it takes. The question is, “what are you trying to make happen?”  And “how good a student are you?” 

How Long Should I Go To Therapy?

Average Length Of Psychotherapy | Average Number Of Psychotherapy Sessions

When I talk to people inquiring about what I do, I explain that I really don’t like the word “therapy“.  I say that I teach people how to be in relationships.

The people who call me are in relationships that in some form or another aren’t working. My job is to understand why they aren’t working and to teach skills that would make them work better.

For example, lots of couples want to win arguments. They fight to win, thus destroying the relationship. I teach people to fight to find out what they are doing wrong.

Many people come to see me because they want to learn what to do in the face of relationship struggles. I explain what would work better and they do it.  The relationship gets better when the power struggle is removed. Things are better. Clients then come less often. They taper down in attendance. They may come back in 6 months or a year just for a recheck, like seeing their internist.

For other people, the process is more difficult. Fighting, for example to find out what they are doing wrong feels hurtful to their pride. They may have a history of being criticized. These people have a harder time.

To follow the advice they are getting requires removing the emotional blocks that interfere.

Removing emotional blocks to therapy takes longer.

The more someone has been criticized the more guilt they feel. The more guilt someone feels, the harder it is to discern criticism from suggestion or request. When request from a partner winds up sounding like criticism despite all efforts to make the request positively, it can take a very long time to change the perception of the person feeling criticized.

I work all the time to talk to people about how to choose a therapist.  Dr Frank Pittman, with whom I trained and worked for 28 years, wrote a wonderful article in 1994 that is even more true today, the article is entitled  “A Buyers Guide To Psychotherapy”. It is even more true today than it was in 1994.

In his article, Dr. Pittman explains the importance of coming to therapy to learn what to do differently to effect a better outcome.

Sometimes people are resistant to accepting that they do anything wrong. There is too much guilt. If someone can’t do anything wrong, they can’t learn to do anything right. For these people, the experience called therapy can take a very long time.

Some clients come to see me and take notes or bring a recording device. Their time in the room is clearly very important to them. It is to me as well. Their energy energizes me. It is a thrill for me to watch these people learn and implement new things!

People who are looking for the therapist next door or one who is a “bargain” typically don’t do well because they haven’t put enough energy into the search.  I find that, like anything else, people who put time into researching who should help them have already the greatest investment in the process and they derive the best outcome.

How Long Should Therapy Lessons Last?

Most therapist schedule hour long sessions, however under special circumstance the time frame can be changed to meet the demand of the situation you are dealing with.


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