How long should therapy last?
The exact length of therapy will depend on what types of problems you are experiencing, how long you have been experiencing the problems, and what type of treatment approach is being used. In all cases, however, it is good to keep in mind that therapy does not provide an overnight fix – change takes time and effort! As a general rule, therapy should end when you have reached your treatment goals. It is important to keep in mind, though, that it is not uncommon for goals to change during the course of therapy, or when initially identified goals have been achieved, for additional ones to emerge.
It is also important to note that research done on comparison of psychodynamic psychotherapies relative to other therapeutic approaches indicates that for patients with complex or chronic emotional problems, longer term therapies produce outcomes that are superior to shorter term methods (Shedler, J. 2010. The efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 65 (2), 98-109). In his findings, Shedler states;
“Especially noteworthy is the recurring finding that the benefits of psychodynamic psychotherapy not only endure but increase with time….In contrast, the benefits of other (non-psychodynamic) empirically supported therapies tend to decay over time for the most common disorders (e.g. depression, generalized anxiety)” (pp101-102).