How long psychotherapy takes depends on several factors: the type of problem or disorder, the patient’s characteristics and history, the patient’s goals, what’s going on in the patient’s life outside psychotherapy, and how fast the patient is able to make progress.

Some people feel relief after only a single session of psychotherapy. Meeting with a psychologist can give a new perspective, help them see situations differently, and offer relief from pain. Most people find some benefit after a few sessions, especially if they’re working on a single, well-defined problem and didn’t wait too long before seeking help.

If you’ve been suffering from extreme anxiety, for example, you might feel better simply because you’re taking action—a sign of hope that things will change. Your psychologist might also offer a fresh perspective early in your treatment that gives you a new understanding of your problem. And even if your problem doesn’t go away after a few sessions, you may feel confident that you’re already making progress and learning new coping skills that will serve you well in the future.

Other people and situations take longer—maybe a year or two—to benefit from psychotherapy. They may have experienced serious traumas, have multiple problems, or just be unclear about what’s making them unhappy. It’s important to stick with psychotherapy long enough to give it a chance to work.

People with serious mental illness or other significant life changes may need ongoing psychotherapy. Regular sessions can provide the support they need to maintain their day-to-day functioning.

Others continue psychotherapy even after they solve the problems that brought them there initially. That’s because they continue to experience new insights, improved well-being, and better functioning.

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