A question that clients often ask is how long does therapy last and how will know when it’s finished?
In truth, there is no real answer the fist part of this question since it depends greatly on the nature of what brings you to therapy and how long you may have been experiencing difficulties. An essential element of the therapeutic process is the building of a working alliance between the client and the therapist, this normally takes a minimum of five to six sessions and so frequently the real work does not start until this alliance is established. This being said the time therapy takes is also largely depended on the complexity of the issue and the clarity within which it can be defined. So if you’ve had therapy before and know what to expect, six to eight weeks may be all it takes to work through whatever brings you. However, for many clients, there is a period of exploration before a clear view of the problem is formed and the real work begins.
Sometimes clients have experienced difficulties for much of their life and working through these takes time and care both to work through and resolve in a meaningful and purposeful way, which brings lasting results. In my practice, it's been typically the case that approximately 40% of individual clients attend at least 8 sessions or more, while 37% attend up to 18 sessions and 23% attend 24 sessions or more. Couples on the other hand typically attend just 6 to 8 sessions initially and then review periodically from time to time.
The second question often asked is how do I know when therapy ends? This very much depends on the setting of goals and purpose of the therapy agreed both initially and after regular reviews towards your progress. Generally, both client and therapist know when the work is done and jointly agree that this is the case. Contrary to what many think therapists do not want to prevent clients leaving and actively work towards establishing the client's autonomy and independence this being the true mark of successful therapeutic relationship. That being said endings and successful endings are a very important part of the final healing process and it’s normal for client and therapist to plan the ending of therapy rather than just let it happen and potentially leave unresolved feelings and unanswered questions at the end of the process.