Updated: Feb 2, 2022
This is probably the most frequently asked question when someone makes a new enquiry for therapy. It’s also quite a tricky one to give an accurate answer right at the start but here are some broad areas that impact on the number of sessions you are likely to need:
1. Are you coming to therapy for a one-off incident or are there several traumas or stresses that have gone on in your life? Where it is a one-off trauma the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends up to 12 sessions and in my experience that tends to be about right.
However, if you’ve suffered from multiple traumas as an adult, or had a difficult childhood then this suggests a more long-standing difficulty and possibly developmental (or attachment) trauma. In which case this will be a medium to long term piece of work. And for context, I’d call 16-24 sessions a medium length piece of work and anything over 24 as a longer piece of work).
2. How long have you had the difficulty? If you’re coming for a problem that’s only been in your life for a year or two then it’s likely that the therapy will be shorter. Longstanding issues are more embedded and may also have spread so that more issues have developed from them, so there will be more to work on. For example, longstanding low self-esteem could mean that you’ve stopped socialising and that means you’ve got high social anxiety and low mood too from the lack of social contact.
3. How stable is your life right now? For example, are you sofa-surfing or job-hunting? Do you have anyone who is offering you emotional support? These things make a big difference to how safe enough you feel. A lot of therapy is about feeling safe so if the basic building blocks of life (roof over your head, an income, and a person to lean on) isn’t in place then therapy will need to start there. The reason these things aren’t in place may be due to the issues you’re covering in therapy. This is fine, and a good reason to come to therapy, however it will add sessions to the overall number as this stuff takes time to sort out.
4. What are your current goals for therapy? If you are considering therapy and feel fearful that there’s so much to sort out that you’ll be in therapy for years then it’s important to know that you and the therapist can agree to a specific area to focus on for an initial block of therapy. Even if you have a complicated background and large number of difficulties, focussing on one goal can help to keep the sessions stay focussed and it can help boost your motivation to get a small step forward in one area.
5. How bad is your distress and overwhelm right now, and what skills have you already got to cope with this? Some clients come to therapy already having done some work on ways to sooth a frazzled nervous system, such as yoga, mindfulness or other relaxation tools. It’s not necessary that you have done this before coming to therapy as your therapist will do this with you in the early sessions. But this can add to the total number of 1-1 sessions required.
If you are ready to learn the skills needed to feel safe and calm your nervous system then I have an online programme to get you started with this straight away. This is a pathway through the best evidence-based tools* that I have supported 100s of people with in their 1-1 therapy. For some people this might be enough of an intervention so they don’t then need 1-1 therapy on completion.
If you’d like to know more just fill in my Contact form with the words “Untroubled programme info” so I can send you some information (you can also DM me on Instagram or Facebook if you prefer to connect that way).
* all tools that I use stem from CBT, EMDR, ACT and CFT.