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Ever wondered how change actually takes place in therapy? Whilst there is no simple answer, we’re hoping the below will give you a better understanding of how, on average, change plays out in someone’s therapeutic journey. 

Psychotherapy provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who’s objective, neutral, and nonjudgmental. It uses scientifically-validated therapies and methods to help people develop healthier and more effective habits and coping strategies.

The objective is to equip you with the skills to solve the problem that brought you into therapy, and to learn how you can better cope with other challenges arising in the future. Usually, the longer a problem has been there for, the longer it takes to change. This is because patterns become ingrained in every aspect of our lives. Change is possible but it’s often assumed to be a quick process, fostering unrealistic expectations as to what therapy actually looks like. You might start to feel better early on in therapy and although these early improvements are a good sign, they typically don’t indicate true change. Longer lasting changes in symptoms and life functioning usually follows continued therapeutic work and may take several months or longer to achieve.

What you should know about therapy

Expect good days and bad days

Throughout therapy, you’ll experience ups and downs. This is because true change hasn’t been able to take place yet. In your journey towards lasting change, you’ll experience two extremes: you may feel confident and can clearly see your progress but at times you may also feel like you’ve regressed. Both of these feelings are completely normal.

We really encourage you to come to sessions during both the ups and downs of your journey. When you feel better, during a peak, you may be inclined to believe that therapy is not needed, but in this period, while you’re not in a crisis, you actually have more capacity to make actionable change. Due to this increased capacity, we encourage you to attend therapy during these periods.

Some clients consider cancelling their appointments when things feel overwhelming and change feels impossible. Seeing and supporting you while you’re struggling is critical. Coming in for a session during your low points is the best way for your psychologist to really see what’s taking place, how to specifically tailor your therapy, and to be there to navigate through your darkest moments together. This transparency with your psychologist is invaluable. Remind yourself of this when common feelings of embarrassment or guilt arise during these darker periods.

Consistency is key

As psychological injuries occur, we tend to place ‘bandaids’ on these wounds so that we can function and soldier on with our lives. Rather than continuing to place bandaid upon bandaid on these wounds, consistent therapy provides a healing journey, which can feel raw and vulnerable, and sometimes that things are worse. We’ll slowly and safely guide you through this process towards a place of resilience and true long-term change. 

Remember: It’s important to get comfortable giving your psychologist feedback as they go, so they can adjust their interventions to your needs and preferences.

How many sessions do you need to see change?

Unfortunately, there’s no blanket number. The frequency of sessions and length of psychotherapy changes from person to person, and is often tentative and revisited throughout the journey.

Research tells us that:

  • Between 10% – 18% of individuals will see improvements just after booking their first session before the session has even begun
  • After 8 regular sessions individuals see a 53% improvement 
  • After 26 sessions individuals see a 74% improvement
  • After a year of weekly therapy individuals will see up to an 83% improvement in their symptoms and mental health

Psychotherapy generally ranges between 4 – 26 sessions, and weekly therapy appears to accelerate the rate of improvement compared to less frequent schedules. Typically, clients will see improvements around session 4 – 6. However, these improvements are often not permanent. Why? Because we tend to see a drop out around session 4. There is a symptom reduction around this time as it is the same time people see their first peak in therapy. True change, however, can require up to 26 sessions to see sustained results.

Based on this, we recommend starting with weekly sessions to gain momentum and then moving to a fortnight or monthly maintenance schedule depending on how you feel.

Looking to start therapy? Make an appointment or call our Client Support Team on 8080 9601.

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