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How Long Should Therapy Take?

My professors often talk about how long therapy should last. They speak about how therapy should be a short-term process and the goal of therapy is to help clients help themselves. After several weeks or months, the client has learned ways to cope with life stresses and is ready to end therapy.

I learned in one class about how most growth happens in the first six weeks of therapy. My professors caution us about clients who become dependent on therapy, coming to therapy for years instead of becoming independent.

It’s always hard for me to not take these discussions personally, because I have been in therapy on and off for the past fifteen years. I’ve seen my current therapist for two and a half years.

I wonder to myself, why am I still in therapy? Am I dependent on counseling? Shouldn’t I be recovered by now?

I become angry with myself. Why aren’t I better yet? Am I not working hard enough? Am I not independent enough?

I take a step back and list things I know about myself. I am trying hard to get better. I am aware of my strengths and my needs.

I don’t think I’m still in therapy due to not trying hard enough. I am committed to the therapy process. I keep logs of my thoughts through the week and bring them into my therapy session. Sometimes I bring in poems I have written. I have written my therapists letters when it seemed helpful.

I work very hard because I want therapy to work, so I can move on and not need it anymore.

I’m not ready to end it yet.

I guess I’m not the typical client. My struggle with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is a constant. I have dissociative identity disorder (or something similar) and right now I am trying to understand and merge my other personalities so I can integrate.

I read somewhere that people who have bipolar disorder may need years of therapy to maintain the mood swings. I felt relief. Maybe it’s acceptable for me to still be in therapy, since I have bipolar 1, and it’s been challenging to manage.

I also read that it typically takes years for someone with DID to merge personalities. So maybe it’s acceptable for me to still be in therapy, since I have DID and I am trying to merge my personalities right now.

Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions. Instead of saying, “Shouldn’t I be done?” and “Why aren’t I done?”… instead of wondering “Is it acceptable for someone like me to be in therapy a long time?”…. Maybe I should let go of the should’s and why’s. Maybe it simply is.

I am having difficulty dealing with my life right now due to my dissociative problems, anxiety, and bipolar moods. So I am seeing a therapist right now. It helps me to see a therapist. My therapist believes I can benefit from therapy right now.

So maybe I’ll just take it day by day. Right now I am having challenges with my life. Right now I am seeing a therapist for help. Seeing a therapist is helping me cope.

So maybe I won’t question the method. Forget about what I should or shouldn’t do. Right now I am having mental problems. Right now I am in therapy. I hope soon things will be better and I will be able to leave therapy. But right now I am seeing a therapist. It helps me and that is all that is important.



photo by Matt Evan on Unsplash.

How Long Should Therapy Take?

Anna Lente

I am currently getting my master's in clinical mental health counseling. I have bipolar disorder, a dissociative disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. I am a writer, poet, and artist. I like to write online about my experience of mental illness in order to raise awareness and break stigma.

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APA Reference
Lente, A. (2018). How Long Should Therapy Take?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Mar 2018
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