Like most therapists, I offer free 15 minute consultations with every client I see before I start seeing them for therapy. One of the things we talk about is their expectations about how often they should schedule sessions. Sometimes people have very strong preferences about it. Some clients who are in crisis want or need sessions a couple of times a week. These are the rarities – if this happens it’s usually only for a short period of time to help people “get their legs back under them“ during a mental health crisis and to strengthen their coping skills so they don’t need quite that much support. Some people say they can’t possibly fit therapy into their schedule – even teletherapy – more than once or twice a month. This group of folks in my experience are also outliers. The reasons people give for not being able to come in frequently vary widely from work, to health problems, to travel, to family issues. Sometimes there is also an underlying resistance to therapy and/or some aspect of the recovery process itself that the client is unaware of or finds too scary to face at present (like a past trauma or concerns that therapy may uncover their addictions) and that takes some time and some self-discovery to figure out. Everyone should go at their own pace. But you can do that even in weekly sessions.
Does this all matter?
Well according to a study of 21,488 clients in 2015, The “dose“ of psychotherapy that you get is associated with steeper recovery curves. When they compared groups of people who went to individual therapy weekly versus every other week the people who went weekly got better faster (i.e. they achieved their therapy goals faster) than the people who didn’t go as frequently. Clients who went to therapy every other week still got better but it just took them longer.
So does this matter to you?
I’ll teach you my favorite phrase that I learned in graduate school: “it depends“. If you want change and you want it now, try going weekly. If you want change and you’re not as concerned about how fast it happens, perhaps you can negotiate with your therapist about going less frequently.
I don’t want my clients to be in therapy forever. I truly don’t. So my preference is that you see me weekly, reach your therapy goals sooner rather than later and then go live your life! A happier and more fulfilling life that aligns with your values, which is why you sought therapy in the first place, right?
Erekson DM, Lambert MJ, Eggett DL. The relationship between session frequency and psychotherapy outcome in a naturalistic setting. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2015 Dec;83(6):1097-107. doi: 10.1037/a0039774. Epub 2015 Oct 5. PMID: 26436645.