Is Counseling Forever?
By: Audrey Woods, Staff Therapist
Perhaps you are considering starting counseling. You’d really like to work on some life issues, but you have questions. For example, how long will this take? Days, weeks, months, years? The answer to your questions is, of course, it depends…
We in the mental health field are tirelessly working to put ourselves out of the job. From the get-go, our goal for you when you enter our office is for you not to need to enter our office. While it is completely normal to require extra support for whatever your issue(s), no, counseling is not forever. Or at least it shouldn’t be. A brief caveat: In some cases, counseling can be an intensive and long process. For example, the treatment of certain personality disorders or other psychoses in which the person’s perception of themselves, others, or the world is not based in reality. These people may require fairly consistent ongoing treatment.
If everyone’s clinical needs were on a spectrum, there would be extremes at both ends: people who never need to step foot in the door of a counselor’s office and people who will always have both feet in the door. Again, the majority of you will fall in the middle of that spectrum. So things like anxiety and depression (two of the most common reasons people seek counseling) usually have a shelf-life of sorts, meaning they too will pass (with a lot of work and dedication on your part). I say again without the parenthesis to be sure I’m not misunderstood, while most mental health issues will resolve, they will not do so without considerable effort on your part both in and out of session. However, the American Psychological Association (APA) reported around twenty percent of clients end therapy prematurely (Chamberlin, 2015). Maybe they come once or twice or even a few times. But after a number of weeks, they simply ghost counseling (meaning they fall off the face of the planet without so much as a goodbye text) or they pluck up and leave a break-up voicemail.
So what’s this magical balance I’m asking you to find between a lifer-client and a two-weeker-client? While I can’t give you an exact number of months or years therapy is supposed to take, it should end when both the client and clinician agree that goals have been met (What? We’re supposed to have goals? That’s for another article). The APA reported one of the most common reasons for terminating therapy before it is successfully completed is that people have unreasonable expectations for the rate at which things are supposed to get better.
Again, there is no exact timeline this process is supposed to take but suffice it to say that it’s usually months, not weeks. Sometimes years. Logically, the more severe your issue, the more time it will likely take to work through. Usually your sessions will start weekly and then begin to spread out to bi-weekly, monthly, and so on. Even after termination, it is normal to have a check-up of sorts every now and again as things come up. So remember, we’re not miracle workers able to cure your stuff in a matter of minutes, but we’re also working really hard to not see you anymore. Edmond Family Counseling is your local community resource for good mental health. If you think we can be of service to you or your family, please call 405-341-3554 or log on to http://edmondfamily.org.
Chamberline, J. (2015). Are Your Clients Leaving Too Soon? American Psychological Association, 46(4), 60.