couch in therapy office with windows and bright light

Understanding the therapy process and how it works: why just one therapy session won’t do much

A popular question – and one you’ve probably wondered yourself, if you’re considering therapy – is ‘how long does therapy take?” You may ask – “how many counseling sessions do I have attend before I feel something different.’ A similar question is ‘how many counseling sessions should I expect to attend total.’

Inevitably my heart rate picks up when I hear this question because it’s so hard to answer. In fact, it’s impossible to answer. The truth is, I can’t give you a specific number and guarantee you that you’ll notice a difference in your thinking or feeling. There are a number of factors that influence how long therapy takes, and they all depend on both you and your therapist:

  1. How long you want to be in therapy
  2. Your relationship with your therapist, and how long it takes to build a relationship
  3. The goals you’ve come to therapy to work on
  4. The type of therapy work that your therapist/counselor does – how they approach change, the therapeutic process, and so on

Ultimately, it takes more than 50 minutes to get to know someone and define their problems and dreams, and it also takes more than 50 minutes to reach a goal that encompasses different areas and different relationships in your life.

I like to put it this way –

“How many years did you spend learning the skills/habits/thought processes you’re trying to unlearn? … It’s going to take more than a few hours to unlearn those when you’ve spent a lifetime learning them.”

Then I hear, “Oooooh.” (And also a little bit of self-grace and self-forgiveness and self-compassion for not “fixing” it in a day.)

This, this, this is why one therapy session isn’t going to do a lot. It may give you some thoughts to mull over, possibilities to imagine, or a glimpse of how you – and your life – could be different. But change? Deep-rooted, lasting, real change? That takes longer.

Unlearning harm inflicted on us – by ourselves and others – takes time to unlearn. And, it’s not just unlearning habits, thought patterns, etc… it’s also a process of re-learning how to trust ourselves, how to trust others, and of learning new ways of thinking and being.

If you can find me a way for that to happen in one 50 minute therapy session — let me know!! I, and some others, would be quite curious about this magic.

Otherwise, if you’re ready to start unlearning ways of being that don’t serve you anymore, and learning new ways of taking care of yourself and showing up in the world, give me a shout and we’ll chat.

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