How Often Should I Come to Therapy?
People often ask me how often they should come in for therapy. And of course, as a therapist who really values the unique needs and constitution of every individual, I say, "it depends". I think the answer is that it's truly different for everyone, but I can offer a general guideline.
The Standard: Once Weekly
For most people, coming to therapy once a week can be quite helpful. The 50 minute break from outside life often offers people enough space to be able to reflect on their experiences, understand their thoughts and feelings a bit better, and carries them through the next week. People often report feeling better after just a few weeks, and often report lasting changes after a good year of therapy.
The Silver Package: Twice Weekly
Some people might think, "What? Twice a week?!? That seems like alot!". Well, in reality there's a few reasons to consider twice a week therapy. First, it's often difficult to get back into deep places in therapy when meeting once a week. There's often a pattern to therapy sessions: a small talk/warm up period, some time in a deeply therapeutic space, and then a wind down/end/rescheduling. When you meet with your therapist twice a week, it can be less difficult to transition back into the therapy space, and you might feel less need for the small talk/warm up phase. If you feel anxiety about your therapy space, twice weekly might ironically feel easier--and be great practice for working through avoidance! Twice a week therapy can also be extremely helpful if you're really struggling with difficult symptoms, or during especially hard times--think isolation during the pandemic, traumatic grief, depression, etc. But the best reason for twice a week therapy is that it offers a deep connection between you and your therapist, which can offer a deep sense of safety and can also lead to working through relational difficulties from your past and present.
The "One Foot In, One Foot Out": Every Other Week
Meeting with your therapist once every other week probably won't lead you to the results you're looking for, as there's simply not enough time (50 minutes out of 336 hours) to process, internalize or hang on to even the concrete things one takes from therapy, let alone the ever so important relational stuff (feeling heard, seen, cared for, disappointed, resolving conflicts, etc. etc). Some people decide after finishing a course of weekly therapy to drop down to every other week, and in this case, every other week therapy can offer some good supportive and maintenance kind of benefits.
Psychoanalysis: Thrice Weekly or More!
Before you close out of the page, take a moment to think about exercise. Experts say that we should get around 30 minutes of cardio exercise at least 3 times a week. It's about that much time we need to train our muscles, build and maintain body memory, acclimate psychologically to feel okay and sustain exercising, and for the lasting health of our physical bodies. I see psychoanalysis as similar, just for our minds, hearts and souls. Psychoanalytic therapy can meet three times a week or more for similar reasons: to cut the small talk/warm up leading to a deeper, more meaningful experience, to ensure a strong connection/attachment to the therapist, to work through and transform relational patterns, and to build new, long-lasting memory--memory in terms of how to be in relationships, how to be with oneself, how to reflect upon and understand one's experience. It takes practice and time to get to know oneself, and psychoanalysis was created for just that.
Your therapy and what it looks like is a series of very personal decisions. It is, at its best, an extraordinarily meaningful experience that can be thought of as an investment in yourself. If you still have questions, please consider discussing with your own therapist, and don't hesitate to ask a new therapist during your initial consultation. Your therapy matters, because you matter.