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Therapy

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How Long Does It Take For Therapy to Work?

Written by Klarity Editorial Team

Published: Oct 10, 2023

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Zoe Russell

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Starting therapy often comes with a handful of questions, among the most common being the timeframe for noticeable progress. It’s natural to want quick relief from emotional struggles, whether it’s anxiety, depression, ADHD, or insomnia. However, the timeline for achieving your therapeutic goals can be as varied as the individuals seeking help.

Throughout this article, we’ll explore the contributing factors that impact therapy, the types of therapy available, and the anticipated time frame to see mental health improvements. 

With Klarity, you get to choose your own licensed mental health provider on our network, who will review your symptoms and medical history and create a personalized therapy plan tailored to your needs.

Find a mental health therapist on Klarity today to get started with personalized therapy for your mental health condition.

Why Therapy Takes Time to Provide Symptom Relief

Therapy is not a quick fix; it’s a process that involves deep emotional and cognitive work. One of the primary reasons therapy is often a long-term commitment is the necessity of building a strong therapist-client relationship. This trusted connection doesn’t happen overnight; it requires multiple sessions to establish an environment where clients can be open, vulnerable, and honest. 

Furthermore, the complexity of the mental health issues being addressed plays a significant role in the time required for noticeable improvement. For instance, conditions like generalized anxiety disorder might see quicker results in a therapy session than complex trauma or personality disorders, which often require a more nuanced and extended approach to therapy treatment.

How to Track Progress in Therapy

Effectively tracking your progress in therapy is crucial for staying motivated and achieving your treatment goals. Beyond setting measurable objectives with your therapist, consider using standardized questionnaires or scales to quantify your symptoms. These self-reported symptom measures can serve as benchmark data points to assess your mental health improvement over time. 

You might also opt to record your sessions (with your therapist’s consent, of course) for self-review later. Listening to past sessions can offer you a unique perspective on your own behavioral patterns and thought processes, serving as another layer of self-evaluation and awareness on your way to complete symptom remission.

Typical Timeframe to See Improvement From Therapy

The timeframe to see improvement from therapy can vary considerably based on several factors, including the therapy type, the severity of the mental health symptoms, and the individual’s commitment to the process. For example, evidence-based therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) might show positive changes within five to 20 sessions for some individuals. 

However, long-term therapeutic approaches, like psychoanalysis, could require many months or even years to yield significant improvements. Understanding that therapy is a personal journey tailored to individual needs can help set realistic expectations. It’s important to always consult your mental health care provider or therapist to create a treatment plan specific to your condition and symptoms.

Type of TreatmentEstimated Timeline
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)5 to 20 sessions
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)8 to 16 sessions
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)12 to 16 sessions
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) 8-week program
Psychoanalysis3 to 5 sessions per week over 3 to 7 years

Factors That Impact Therapy Results

The effectiveness of therapy is influenced by multiple factors, each playing a distinct role in shaping your therapeutic experience and outcomes. From the quality of your relationship with your therapist to the gravity of your mental health issues and even the treatments you may be using, each variable can either accelerate or impede your progress.  

To truly understand the complexities of therapy, it’s essential to dissect the following contributing elements individually.

Collaboration Between Therapist and Client

A successful therapeutic relationship is built on mutual collaboration between the therapist and the client. This partnership starts with open communication, where both parties are forthright about expectations, limitations, and objectives. The client’s willingness to engage in self-exploration and emotional transparency, combined with the therapist’s expertise in facilitating this process, is critical for therapy to be effective. 

Secondly, collaboration extends to decision-making, including the selection of therapy types and approaches, as well as setting treatment goals. The therapist’s knowledge and the client’s insights into their own condition make for a formidable team in navigating the path to recovery.

Severity of Mental Health Issues

The severity of your mental health condition directly impacts the timeframe and effectiveness of therapy. More complex mental health issues like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or major depression disorder often require a more intense and prolonged type of therapy. 

A healthcare professional’s treatment method for more complex mental health conditions may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or even medication in conjunction with therapy. On the flip side, mild to moderate issues such as situational anxiety or acute depressive states generally demand less time to resolve.

Your Dedication to Get Healthy

Your commitment to the therapy process is a powerful determinant in achieving successful outcomes. This dedication manifests in various ways, such as consistently attending sessions, completing homework or exercises, and applying learned coping mechanisms in everyday life. 

Furthermore, actively engaging in sessions by being open, honest, and receptive to feedback can significantly accelerate progress. However, this commitment is often tested by emotional discomfort and the cognitive dissonance that therapy can sometimes provoke. Overcoming these barriers is the key to your success on your mental health journey.

Co-Occurring Conditions

When you’re dealing with co-occurring conditions, also known as comorbidities, the journey through therapy can become complex and extended. Conditions like anxiety and depression often appear together, and their symptoms can feed off each other. In cases like these, a therapist needs to apply an in-depth treatment approach to address each issue independently while considering their interrelations. This naturally makes the therapy process more intricate and potentially lengthens the time required to see tangible results.

Moreover, co-occurring conditions may not be just mental health disorders; they can also be physical conditions like chronic pain, diabetes, or heart disease, which further complicate the therapeutic landscape. These physical ailments can both influence and be influenced by your mental state. Such complexities demand more time and adjustment in treatment plans, making it challenging to predict a specific timeframe for therapy to show its full effectiveness.

Supplemental Treatments

In some cases, therapy is just one element in a broader treatment strategy that may include medications like antidepressants or antianxiety drugs, as well as alternative treatments such as acupuncture or herbal supplements. While these treatments can support and sometimes expedite the therapy process, they can also introduce additional variables that impact its effectiveness. 

For instance, medication side effects may temporarily worsen symptoms before an improvement is seen or may even conflict with the therapeutic approaches being used. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep all healthcare providers informed of any additional treatments to ensure they are complementary to your active treatment plan.

Noticing symptoms and suspect you have a mental health condition? Find fast, affordable care from a provider on Klarity today.

What to Do if You’re Not Seeing Results From Therapy

​​If you’ve been consistently attending therapy sessions but still aren’t noticing any significant improvement in your mental health symptoms, it’s understandable to feel frustrated and discouraged. However, it’s crucial not to lose hope or give up entirely on the therapeutic process. Therapy takes time, and it’s not uncommon for results to manifest gradually. 

If you’re feeling stuck or are afraid your depression is permanent, it’s a good idea to discuss these feelings openly with your therapist. They can help you evaluate your therapeutic journey so far, make necessary adjustments to your treatment plan, or help set more realistic expectations.

In some cases, you may also consider getting a second opinion from another mental health care provider or even changing therapists. Different therapists have unique approaches and areas of expertise, and sometimes, a change in perspective can yield better results. Make sure to discuss your concerns with your current therapist before making any changes, but if you are considering a change, you can easily find a new therapist on Klarity by searching through the options on our platform.

How Long Does Therapy Last?

A single therapy session typically lasts about 50 minutes to an hour, providing a structured timeframe to delve into issues and explore coping strategies. However, the duration of therapy can vary significantly from one individual to another, as it’s tailored to meet the unique needs and goals of each person. 

Typically, many clients undergo therapy for a period of a few months to a couple of years before they’re able to maintain treatment gains. This varies based on the complexity of your emotional struggles and the milestones you’re aiming to reach in therapy. 

It’s essential to discuss the expected duration of therapy during your initial sessions to set realistic expectations and goals. While it might be tempting to seek a quick fix, effective mental health treatment often requires time, effort, and a strong therapeutic relationship.

How to Get the Most Out of Mental Health Therapy

Maximizing the benefits of therapy begins with active participation and open communication with your mental health provider. Don’t hold back; be honest about your feelings, challenges, and concerns. The therapeutic relationship is a two-way street, and the more you put in, the more you’ll get out of the experience. 

Use the time between sessions to reflect on what was discussed, and if you’re given homework or exercises to practice, make sure to complete them for the best possible clinical outcomes. These tasks are designed to help you make strides in your mental well-being, even outside the therapy room. Also, don’t hesitate to ask questions or seek clarification on treatment plans and therapeutic techniques. Being informed and engaged in your own treatment can significantly impact the speed and efficacy of your mental health improvement.

Keep in mind that progress takes time, and ups and downs are a normal part of the therapeutic journey. Stay committed and maintain regular appointments to ensure continuity and to get the most out of your mental health therapy.

Don’t Waste Another Second. Find a Licensed Therapist on Klarity Today

The journey to mental well-being is a marathon, not a sprint, and the time to start is now. Therapy is a proven way to address various mental health issues, but as we’ve discussed, it does require time, patience, and active participation. The sooner you take the first step, the quicker you can start experiencing the benefits. 

Klarity makes this process easier than ever by allowing you to hand-pick a therapist that matches your needs and preferences. Once you meet with this therapist, they’ll tailor the treatment to your specific needs. Your mental health is worth the investment, and with Klarity, you have the flexibility and options to find the perfect match for your therapeutic needs. 

Find a licensed therapist on Klarity today to set a timeline for your therapy treatment and start reaching personal mental health goals.

Sources

“Here’s How Many Therapy Sessions It Actually Takes to See Results.” Kristian Wilson, LMHC. https://growtherapy.com/blog/how-long-it-takes-for-therapy-to-work/

“How long does therapy take to work?” Miranda Raimon. https://www.twochairs.com/blog/how-long-does-therapy-take-work

“Depression Treatment for Adults.” American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/depression-guideline/adults

“Depression Therapy: 4 Effective Options to Consider.” Hailey Shafir, LCMHCS, LPCS, LCAS, CCS. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/therapy-for-depression/

Acceptance & Commitment Therapy.” The Downtown Physiology Clinic. https://downtownpsychologyclinic.com/acceptance-commitment-therapy/
“Psychoanalysis.” MentalHelp.net https://www.mentalhelp.net/psychotherapy/psychoanalysis/

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