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How long will therapy last?

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

This depends on the scope of work. No matter why you are in therapy, it is important that you understand that you may terminate therapy at any time.

Short-term therapy for simple traumas: This applies to situations in which life had been generally fine, but a recent isolated traumatic event changed things in a very specific way. An example of such a situation is: a person who regularly drives a car gets into a car accident, and becomes of afraid of driving and avoids driving afterwards as a result. In the case of an isolated incident, I typically use EMDR for treatment, and treatment lasts 5-10 sessions (each session is 45 minutes long).

Mid-length therapy for contained, transitional situations: This applies to life transitions that are stressful, exclusively or almost exclusively, due to the transition itself, and not other factors. These are often school or job-related, and are not generally relationship-related. Examples of stressful transitions are starting college, starting a new career, or starting a demanding job. In the case of an anticipated transition, the stress from this generally begins several months before the transition itself (e.g. a semester or two before college graduation). Therapy in these types of cases is typically psychodynamic, and weekly sessions continue until the client is comfortably on the other side of the transition. Although we look to understand the unconscious underpinnings of stress, we place equal focus on behavioral coping mechanisms.

Longer-term/open length therapy for long-term issues and traumas: Often, these are relationship-and/or pattern-oriented. Examples of this are tumultuous, dissatisfying, or distant relationships; career dissatisfaction; difficulty recovering from an abusive or otherwise traumatic past; low self-esteem; self-sabotaging behaviors; or general feelings of free-floating anxiety or depression. This is generally longer-term therapy and is predominantly treated with psychodynamic talk therapy sessions but may be supplemented with EMDR. The length of therapy depends on what the client’s goals, and these goals may change over the course of therapy. Using the ending of an intimate relationship as an example, some people are content to stop feeling terribly after a break-up. Others want to make sure they learn how to establish close, healthy relationships with other people before terminating therapy. And still others may feel the pattern they’ve seen in failed romantic relationships is similar to patterns in their friendships and work relationships, and are looking for a complete sea change in their perspective, coping mechanisms, and outcomes.

Some people recover from break ups. Others may look to completely change every aspect of their lives.

The possibilities are endless…

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