Speaking regularly to a therapist whom you can trust offers numerous benefits to those seeking to overcome issues with mental health such as anxiety or depression. But who has the time to fit regular therapy sessions into an already jam-packed weekly schedule?
If you’re considering therapy as a means to improve your life both mentally and emotionally, one of the many questions you may start with is how much time you’ll be spending inside your therapist’s office. You might be surprised to learn that it isn’t so much about how long but how meaningful your time was spent that matters.
In this article, you’ll find further information regarding various types of therapy and what they entail in regard to time spent. This will help prepare you for what you can expect when starting therapy with a mental health provider.
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Typical Length of a Therapy Session
Whether you are seeking treatment in-person or online, you can expect your therapy session to last between 45 to 55 minutes, which is generally referred to in the industry as the “therapeutic hour.” While in some instances, a therapy session may last longer or shorter than the average timeframe, 45-55 minutes is typical.
This therapy session length affords your therapist some much-needed time to decompress after your session and clear their mind in preparation for the next patient. The same courtesy is afforded to you as well when your therapist is meeting with another client beforehand.
Because therapy is such an involved process, not only for the patient but the therapist as well, this short break is critical to ensuring that your therapist gives you their full, undivided attention and expertise.
Therapy Intake Session
Also referred to as an intake session, this is your first session with a potential therapist where they will discuss your history and gather information about the issue or condition you are experiencing. In general, intake sessions will last longer than subsequent sessions, averaging approximately 80 to 90 minutes in time.
Intake sessions typically blend the beginning stages of treatment, learning more about you and your background through questionnaires, with the logistics of treatment, such as payment and insurance policy.
After expectations are set, and this intake session has concluded, you can expect your next visit to last the time around the typical 45-50 minutes.
What Influences Length of Therapy Sessions?
Although the therapy hour has been set industry-wide as the standard procedure, there are a number of factors that may affect this allotted time. You may be able to extend your therapy session length to as long as two to three hours based on severe clinical need or even engage in impromptu shorter sessions in a time of immediate crisis.
One of the biggest factors that could influence how long therapy sessions last is the type of therapy.
When you’re meeting with a therapist one-on-one, you can expect to have a therapy session that lasts the typical therapy hour. This time allows for meaningful discussion and the setting of expected goals for next time. You are not going to solve all of your problems in just one lone session, and knowing that there is always another hour next week helps spread out the emotional toll and prevent burnout.
Because there are more people involved, a couples counseling session typically can last anywhere from 75 to 90 minutes. This longer amount of time allows for all parties to get involved in the discussion and for the therapist to provide appropriate feedback.
Group therapy sessions also include a multitude of people, each with their own perspectives and points of view. This type of therapy can range anywhere from 45-90 minutes long.
This additional time permits the therapist to engage with all members of the group and to ensure that all topics for discussion have been addressed.
As you may expect, given the name, intensive therapy is more of an immersive approach for those battling serious mental illness or severe substance abuse issues that not only can affect daily life but also may be life-threatening. Intensive therapy is typically nine or more hours of therapy on a weekly basis.
Intensive therapy is a major commitment for the patient, who will meet with their therapist multiple times a week for several hours each session.
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Why Are Therapy Sessions a Fixed Time Length?
Therapy sessions have fixed time lengths primarily for scheduling efficiency, ensuring that therapists can accommodate multiple clients. However, there are several benefits for you as well.
Just from a logistical standpoint, having that session last the therapy hour of 45 to 55 minutes makes it much easier for patients to come in during their lunch break or fit it into their otherwise busy schedules.
Creates Natural Boundaries
Limiting the risk of overexposure to painful memories or trauma is paramount in effectively treating those who seek the help of a therapist. Emotions run high in these sessions, and discussions lasting more than an hour can overwhelm patients and lead them to become more lethargic about going about the rest of their day. A defined time provides more structure to the visit.
Encourages Good Use of Time
Limiting sessions to under an hour also forces both the therapist and their client to make good use of their time. The patient understands that there is not really much time for taking a “break” during sessions of this length, and they are also less likely to engage in small talk within their precise time frame and stay on topic.
Helps For Later Reflection
It is unlikely that a patient can effectively process the content of an extended therapy session lasting several hours. This is why it is many therapist’s recommendation to meet in frequent intervals versus one long session every now and then. It is easier to process potential breakthrough revelations or difficult information incrementally.
How Often Do You Have Therapy Sessions?
The frequency of therapy sessions often depends on your needs and preferences. Your therapist will assist by giving you their own recommendations, but typically, those who are interested in emotional skill-building will start off with weekly sessions that can be either decreased or increased from there.
For online counseling, you may be asked for daily check-ins as opposed to the weekly therapeutic hour.
Hand-Pick a Therapist That Fits Your Schedule on Klarity Today
If you’re interested in therapy to improve your mental health but worried it won’t fit into your busy schedule, Klarity can help. On our platform, you can hand-pick a therapist that not only suits your availability but also your mental health needs and other preferences. When you meet with this therapist, they’ll also help create a customized treatment plan for you.
Find a provider today and schedule your first therapy session.