What will the right number of therapy sessions be for me?

This is a question I get asked a lot!

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It is understandable to wonder how many therapy sessions you might need before you start seeing changes. Additionally, you could want more certainty about how long you might be in therapy for a variety of practical reasons. For example, due to the significant time and financial commitment that it can require.

There is no single straightforward answer to this question so the goal of this article is going to be to unpack the topic in a way that can hopefully give you some pointers for reflection on your own personal situation, as well as prompt you to have these open discussions with your chosen therapist.


1. Start slow and steady

Therapy is a relationship and like any relationship, takes some time to build. I believe it is essential that you and your therapist consider, through an initial meeting and perhaps a certain number of further sessions, whether or not you are well-suited to work together. You need to feel like your therapist is committed to understanding you and your personal situation by supporting you to feel able to share and discuss the things that are most important to you. This doesn’t mean that therapy will always feel comfortable, and some gentle challenge is often needed for change to occur, but overall, you should feel safe with your chosen therapist. In my experience, this process of warming up and deciding on suitability takes about four sessions.

2. Think about any personal expectations or limits

Some people come with an idea of their own timeframe and/or limits in mind for different reasons. For example, somebody accessing therapy through their work insurance policy might know that they are only planning to access 10 sessions as this is what has been funded for them. In this case, you may work with your therapist towards specific goals or outcomes as you move towards this “planned ending” together.

For this to work well, one of the discussions you and your therapist will need to have early on is about what an achievable and realistic goal for therapy would be. For example, improving your understanding of the main factors contributing to your stress at work, and finding helpful strategies to manage this.

3. Accept the inherent uncertainty of therapy

However, unlike going to the doctor for something specific like tonsillitis and getting medicine that you are told will leave you feeling better within two weeks, the nature of therapy holds more uncertainty within it. For example, the person who initially came for 10 sessions of therapy to focus on work stress, as they start to build a greater understanding of their situation, may discover that a lot of their struggles seem to be stemming from an unresolved experience of bullying in their last workplace.

In some instances, this can lead the person to want to refine their therapy agreement to something more open-ended and flexible, as they decide that they want to embark on a journey of getting to the root cause of what is going on through processing this past trauma.

4. Remember that therapy is for everyone

I believe that everyone can benefit from therapy, and this means that deciding on a number of sessions is specific to you and your reasons for seeking out therapy in the first place. Given the more uncertain nature of therapy, I think that it feels more appropriate to frame it as a “tool” or a “resource” that all people can benefit from at different, and perhaps multiple, points in their life journey.

This does not just include people who are struggling with a specific mental health difficulty but also people who wish to engage in therapy for personal development, to deepen their self-awareness and ability to emotionally regulate, and/or to explore spiritual or faith-based issues. Additionally, it might be interesting for you to know that most trainee therapists will have been required to have their own personal therapy in order to become qualified and may even return to therapy at multiple points throughout their careers.

5. The ultimate goal should always be to work towards ending

Research into the effectiveness of therapy indicates that 50% of people feel that they have been sufficiently helped within 15 to 20 sessions. This can give people a general idea of how long they might expect to be in therapy but even with more open-ended and longer-term arrangements, the ultimate goal should always be coming to an end. That might sound a little strange, but it is part of the therapist’s job to help clients become independent, with their own source of inner and outer resources.

For example, if somebody is lonely and finds themselves in a situation with limited social support, they may turn to a therapist. This could be a really helpful way for this person to cope in the first instance. However, a good therapist will not encourage unhealthy dependence but will aim to use the building of a therapeutic relationship to pave the way for this person to develop healthy relationships outside of therapy, with other supportive people and communities.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 3HA
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Written by Imogen Healy, MBACP
Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 3HA

I am a BACP registered counsellor and psychotherapist offering Online therapy, as well as face to face sessions, from my office in Worcestershire. My approach to therapy is integrative, relational and trauma-informed. I have worked extensively with adults affected by childhood relational trauma and a wide range of consequential struggles.

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