Text Box: How Long Will Counseling Last?

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Text Box:    Most people coming to counseling want treatment to be as brief as possible.  Counseling is expensive; it often requires people to delve into life struggles that cause significant mental, emotional, physical and spiritual dysfunction.  What is hard to accept (and determine) is exactly how long the treatment process will take (and what if nothing is wrong?).  The fact is, there are a multitude of variables to consider as the client and as the professional—the complexities of counseling make it a dynamic process.
   Counseling is usually tailored to the needs of the person who is seeking treatment—and treatment methods are as complex as the human condition.  To treat the unique needs of people, interventions must be just as unique.  That doesn’t mean that you should not have a reasonable expectation of when treatment will end.  
   Before you agree to see a mental health professional for ongoing treatment, you should ask the professional to give you their interpretation of what they think is in need of treatment, what methods exist to effectively treat the problem, what specific methods they will use to treat you, and how many sessions are needed to complete the treatment goal.  All of these questions should be addressed in the treatment plan that the mental health professional might have developed.  If a written treatment plan does not exist, or it is not in the standard operating procedure of the counselor, you may want to get a second opinion.
   Unfortunately, you may be surprised to learn how many mental health professionals provide treatment, without generating treatment plans.  Usually these can be developed in the first (or second) meeting.  It is up to you to decide if you are comfortable with beginning a therapeutic process without any insight as to how the process will proceed or when it is anticipated to end.  
   To give you an idea of how long treatment processes can take, the first thing to remember is there is never an absolute number of sessions (a jointly prepared/discussed treatment plan is needed nevertheless).

Some mental illnesses are harder to treat than others.  

Various methods are used by different professionals.  

People respond to treatment differently.  

One problem might expose other problems.  

Expectations of treatment delays recovery.

Clients want services; professionals refuse termination.

Many other variables impact the process of treatment.  

   Ultimately, when it comes to determining how long therapy will take, there really is not a straight forward, specific answer. Regardless of the unpredictability you do not simply need to “be seen for as long as it takes” without a documented treatment plan with the expected number of sessions listed.