So, you’ve made the decision to come into therapy. You may have a problem that keeps tripping you up, a dilemma you need to come to a decision about, or perhaps there’s an ongoing issue in life that’s preventing you from being your best self.
Whatever your reasons for seeking counselling, psychotherapy or psychology, there’s a question that you’re likely to ask your therapist: how many sessions will I need?
There is no straightforward answer to this. That decision will depend on the issue you’re bringing to work on in therapy, how severe that issue is, and how deeply you want to go into yourself and your inner processes. That can all feel rather daunting if you’re entering therapy for the first time, as you may not know what to expect.
Working collaboratively with your counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist, in the first session they will take you through an assessment and talk you through your options. They can also help you formulate some outcomes that you’d like to achieve from talking therapy. From there, a therapist will generally offer an initial six sessions to process the issues you’re facing. You can review by session five to decide if you’ve achieved the outcomes you wanted – and to consider whether to continue on an open-ended basis, if you feel there’s more to be explored.
There is no right or wrong in the number of sessions you have. Short-term therapy generally ranges from six to 16 sessions. Open-ended therapy can continue for months or years. Some people come back for short-term work several times. Others know from the start that their issues need long-term work. In our experience, therapy goes in layers. You may feel satisfied working on just the top layer – or be curious to journey into your deeper layers.
Here are our thoughts on short-term versus open-ended therapy:
You’re likely to need short-term therapy if…
- You’ve never had counselling, psychotherapy or psychology before and you want to find out what it’s like and is it for you.
- There’s a single issue you need support with rather than a big list of things to work on.
- Time is limited (for example, the countdown to a job interview, or you’re about to move, or there’s an impending deadline that you need to meet).
- You’re on a budget (though we have options for low-cost counselling if cost is your only obstacle to accessing therapy).
- You’re looking for a solution-focused approach: you’re seeking some answers rather than wanting to explore the causes.
You’re likely to need open-ended therapy if…
- The issues you’re bringing to therapy have been around for a long time.
- You have several issues you’d like to work on.
- You recognise patterns in yourself that are deeply ingrained and you’re struggling to change.
- The same things keep happening to you in relationships and you want to make sense of your part in that.
- You want to explore the roots of why you are the way you are: you want to gain deeper understanding and insight into the effect your childhood has had on you, to leave you freer to embrace your future.
If you’d like to talk through your options with a counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist, get in touch with us. We have centres in Tooting and Clapham, with sessions available seven days a week, and no waiting list. You can reach us on 020 8673 4545 and [email protected]