It can be difficult to predict the exact number of sessions you may need in therapy, however there are general guidelines based on researching findings and clinical experience that can provide a helpful framework to address this question. 

There are 3 important factors to consider in addressing this question:

  1. You Starting Point
  2. Your Goals for Therapy
  3. Your Life Circumstances and Therapeutic Factors

1) Your Starting Point:

The number of sessions and frequency of appointments you may need to benefit from therapy will depend on the type and severity of your concerns. This includes the extent and intensity of any symptoms you may be experiencing, how long the problem has been an issue and how resistant it has been at other attempts at change. 

For example, if you have suddenly started to experience brief bouts of anxiety or depression short term therapy may be all you need to get back on track. However if your symptoms have been going on for years or even most of your life it could be a longer road. 

2) Your Goals for Therapy:

If your goal to seek clarity and direction around one specific issue, such as help in making a decision or maybe you are just looking for a quick ‘tune up’ of work you have already done then very brief therapy (around 3 sessions) may be all you need to move through a very specific area where you feel stuck. Mild life stressors tend to respond well to very brief intervention. 

If you are struggling with mild to moderate concerns such as mild to moderate anxiety or depression shorter term work will likely be most appropriate. Short term therapy generally ranges between 4-16 sessions within a 1-4 month period. Adjustment problems tend to show significant improvement within 8-12 sessions and usually treatment can be completed within 20 sessions or less. 

If you are looking to get to the root of deeper patterns and to make significant and lasting changes as a part of your ongoing personal development in many areas of your life you are likely going to benefit far more from ongoing work over time. Depth therapy tends to be longer term, you work until you have the results you want or unit you and your therapist decide it is time to take a break. 

If you are experiencing significant symptoms that are interfering with many areas of your life regualr longer term treatment will likely be most beneficial. This can be the case for more serious problems such as recurring chronic depression, serious/complex PTSD, current substance abuse/addiction, personality problems and ongoing life stressors.

Moderate or intermediate goals are often treated within 16-30 sessions. Occasionally treatment may last close to a full year of regular sessions.

A national (US based) research study found that 30% of psychotherapy clients show improvement by 3 sessions,  50% had made improvements within 8 sessions of therapy and 75% show improvements after 6 months of therapy. Most individuals complete therapy within 3-6 months. 

3) Your Life Circumstances and Therapeutic Factors:

The work and commitment you put into therapy has been shown to be what makes the most difference in terms of positive outcomes. The overall quality of your life, impact of any outside stressors as well as protective factor such as your personal strengths and resources all have an important impact on the change process. 

The most import factor for positive change within the therapeutic context itself is finding a therapist who feels like a good fit for you to work with. Important factors to consider are finding someone you are comfortable opening up to and developing a relationship with over time. For more specialized concerns it can also be helpful to find a therapist with specialized training and experience in treating the same type of concerns. If there is no progress/response within 3-6 session it may not be the right fit in terms of therapist, approach or outside factors.

If you have questions about what might be most helpful in your own therapeutic journey you are welcome to send me a message or comment below.