There are many different frequencies that people come in for counseling. I have my regular 50 minute once a week clients, my double session (100 minute) once a week clients, my every other week 50 minute clients, my every other week double clients, and my as-needed-just-maintaining clients.
Obviously there are several factors to consider when deciding on your frequency for therapy. Cost is a big one. If you can afford weekly therapy, I’d say do that at least for the first eight to twelve sessions because the more regularly you go, the faster I’ve seen the progress go (much like exercising). The regular weekly sessions are ideal because they allow the therapist and client to form a trusting relationship that goes into deeper vulnerability each week. It is great because the weekly triggers can be dealt with sooner rather than later. There is also the benefit of accountability (for example- if you don’t do your assigned homework, there is someone holding you to it). If you go every week there might be so much that has happened that there’s a build up and it may be difficult to know where to place your focus.
If cost is a factor, then you might want to consider taking one week off a month and attending three weeks on, one week off at least for the first 8-12 sessions. This allows for the least amount of negative emotional buildup possible.
Every other week is not my first choice for clients entering into therapy for the first time, but, of course, I understand that everyone is coming from a different financial place. No therapist wants to add to the burden of life by putting you into debt because of therapy! Definitely stick to your budget. My advice if you decide to do an every other week plan, is to commit to 8-16 sessions initially and on your off weeks, do something that is good for your mental health. Take a creative arts class, a dance class, go to a 12 step meeting, attend an extra church service… something that feels like you can process from your heart.
Every three weeks or once a month as a brand new client is definitely not recommended. The progress will be hard to come by. I’ve done it before and I do think that some therapy can be better than no therapy, but it is important to have pretty darn low expectations about the amount of progress you can make. Think about it, if you only work out once a month, how much weight will you lose? How much muscle will you gain?
Great, so when does therapy end?
You are the one who decides when to stop therapy, while collaborating with your therapist about what they see might be areas you’d need to work on either now or at some point in the future. When you have met your goals, processed your trauma, learned how to maintain healthy mental states, relationships feel secure and are flourishing, and have direction/purpose/positivity around your future goals in life, then you should definitely terminate therapy. No healthy therapist wants to keep clients around longer than they need to be. I knew that it wast time for me to end my own therapy when I felt like I had nothing to talk about with my therapist. When it feels like you’re two friends catching up over coffee, but nothing has really triggered you that you need help coming back from…it’s time to say bye bye for now. As I tell all my amazing clients who have accomplished their goals and ended therapy on a positive note (and I say this to those who leave therapy earlier than is advisable, too) the door is always open! That’s the beautiful part about having a therapist. Personally, I saw my therapist every week for a couple of years, then again after I went through a crazy labor experience followed by PPD, and I’m even seeing her next week as I approach another birth. Just knowing that she is around and willing to squeeze me into her schedule in a reasonable amount of time makes me feel secure. I love knowing that I can be that for others, too. So, to summarize, try to fit in as many sessions up front as you can afford, and know that you are helping to make your progress go faster. If you have ended therapy and are struggling again or are thinking about starting therapy because your symptoms are getting unmanageable…reach out!