Why does psychotherapy take so long?

Therapy often takes longer than patients first expect. Sometimes this is because they enter treatment for a specific problem, only to discover deeper and more chronic difficulties. And, as we shall see, there is a reason why difficulties become chronic. No matter what kind of psychotherapy or personal problem, the reason why people get so impatient with the process is relatively universal because they desperately want to feel better.

Therapy takes a long time to show results because it took a lifetime to adapt to these patterns that no longer work. A therapist can help people dismantle maladaptive behaviors and beliefs and create new ones faster than people can do on their own, but it's still an investment of time. Conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder usually take between 15 and 20 sessions for 50% of patients to feel improvement. People treated with cognitive behavioral therapy have been found to report feeling better after about 10-20 sessions.

Before finishing my initial training in social work, I read many stories about psychotherapy. The duration of treatment for psychological problems will necessarily vary from person to person. Essentially, the treatment (type and duration) must always correspond appropriately to the nature and severity of the difficulties presented by the person. Acute difficulties usually require fewer treatment sessions than chronic illnesses.

In addition, the duration of treatment also varies depending on the type of treatment provided; cognitive-behavioral treatments, which focus on a specific problem, are usually shorter than psychotherapies with a broader focus. Some problems are easier to identify, address, and treat than others. A simpler life challenge can take a few sessions, while more complex situations can take anywhere from 6 months to several years.

Keira Ouellet
Keira Ouellet

Devoted web nerd. Total beer fanatic. Certified zombie expert. Wannabe web trailblazer. Extreme internet geek. Certified internet ninja.

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