Here’s How Many Therapy Sessions It Actually Takes to See Results

If you’re considering going to therapy, or if you have already started, congrats! You’re on the right track to bettering your mental health and well-being. However, you might be wondering how many therapy sessions it will take for you to see results.

krsitian wilson grow therapy By Kristian Wilson, LMHC

Updated on Apr 30, 2024

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If you’re considering going to therapy, or if you have already started, congrats! You’re on the right track to bettering your mental health and well-being. However, you might be wondering how many therapy sessions it will take for you to see results.

Many people who go to therapy simply want to feel “better,” but what exactly does that mean, and how long does it take for therapy to work? Furthermore, how do you know if therapy is effective for you?

It’s important to have a general idea of what to expect in therapy and how long you should stick with it before you can anticipate seeing results.

When Will You See Results From Therapy?

There is no easy one-size-fits-all answer to this question – which means you may not go into therapy knowing exactly how long it will take you to feel better. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You should want a treatment plan to be personalized just for you, which means your therapy experience won’t be identical to other people’s.

This is because so many factors go into mental health treatment and how long it may take. For example, a few things to consider are the specific condition you’re seeking help for and your willingness to engage in therapy.

However, after the first one or two sessions, your therapist will likely be able to come to a diagnosis and determine approximately how long they think your treatment may need to be, says John’Neiska Marshall, a licensed professional counselor with Grow Therapy. Still, this isn’t set in stone. As time progresses, you and your therapist might decide you need more or fewer sessions than initially decided.

People change, and mental health tends to ebb and flow. Marshall says a solid six weeks (typically six sessions) is a reasonable amount of time to truly identify patterns, including the intensity, frequency, and severity of symptoms. This helps determine if more intensive and longer-term therapy is needed.

In general, most people will begin to see at least some type of minor improvements in certain areas after a few sessions of therapy – even if that means just being able to have a better understanding of their condition or being able to identify when their negative thought patterns are taking over. However, for true change to occur, you must be patient.

What’s the Number of Sessions Necessary for Therapy to Work?

Just as the duration of treatment varies from person to person, so does the number of sessions. It depends on your individual situation and the frequency of therapy sessions.

When you first start therapy, sessions will typically occur once a week, says Tommy Saathoff, a licensed professional counselor with Grow Therapy. After a while, if both you and your therapist agree, you may space out sessions a bit more. Depending on the therapist, a typical session may range from 45 minutes to an hour.

“The majority of clients I work with individually meet once a week for an average of two to three months,” Saathoff says. “[Then] I will discuss with the client how they believe they are progressing and ask them if they would be comfortable going to every other week. This decision is up to the client.” From there, you could decide to space sessions out even further, or move back to weekly sessions if necessary.

“This is a fluid process and subject to change at any time because life happens,” he adds.

Ultimately, research shows that for significant change to occur, you need a decent number of sessions, typically equaling around a few months. According to the American Psychological Association, it can take at least 12 sessions for “clinically significant improvements” to mental health.

Many people opt for more continuous treatment, such as 20 to 30 sessions, to feel a more thorough reduction in symptoms and to gain increased confidence in using and applying the skills learned in therapy.

Furthermore, the American Psychological Association notes that people with comorbid mental health conditions – meaning that there is more than one condition present – require more extensive treatment for maximum effectiveness in managing the conditions. In these cases, individuals may be in therapy for a year to 18 months.

When all is said and done, the number of sessions and duration of treatment ultimately depend on your situation. Everyone is different.

Factors That Could Impact Your Mental Health Treatment

Part of why therapy is so individualized is because so many factors play into the course of treatment. Here are some examples.

What Are Common Types of Therapy?

Many types of psychotherapy, AKA talk therapy, exist. The type of therapy you end up with will depend on your provider’s expertise, your mental health conditions/concerns, and your history. A few common examples of therapy include:

This is not an exhaustive list. There are other slightly less popular but still effective types of therapy. Some therapists may use a blend of different therapy modalities to best treat their patients’ symptoms.

What Are Some Examples of Therapy Goals?

Therapy goals are also highly individualized and personal, depending on your struggles and diagnosed mental health condition. Taking stock of these goals and noticing if you’re working towards them is another way to tell if you are making progress in therapy.

Some examples of therapy goals include:

If you’re not sure what therapy goals to set, talk to your therapist about it. Given your history and present-day struggles, they can help you identify some targets and help you reach them. 

How to Get the Most Out of Therapy

How to Tell If Therapy Is Working for You

Sometimes it will be obvious that therapy is working for you. For example, people who suffer from anxiety disorders and have panic attacks may notice they don’t have them as frequently or intensely as before their first session. People with depression may notice they have regained interest and pleasure in activities and have a better mood overall.

“Some people notice in hindsight that they have gone ‘X’ amount of time without the negative feeling, persistent low affect, or dysfunctional behavior occurring, even if for a relatively short time,” Saathoff says. “Others are more fully aware of a more positive perspective overall and can acknowledge that they respond instead of react to everyday situations in a more appropriate and healthy way.”

Or changes may be more subtle over time and harder to notice. Week over week, you may make small changes and little improvements that all add up in the long run. It will all depend based on why you decided to come to therapy in the first place. You can also look at the goals you set and determine if you are reaching them or if you’re at least on track to reaching them.

Additionally, your therapist can help you identify the progress you’re making. For example, Marshall says therapists may use surveys, questionnaires, and ratings to assess the progress someone’s making. These can help identify the severity and frequency of your symptoms. Looking at symptoms in a quantifiable way like this can help you keep track of progress and assess how far you’ve come.

If you feel like you’re not making progress or think you aren’t making as much progress as you’d like to by a certain point, don’t hesitate to check in with your therapist. Mental health professionals want to help you, and if you feel like you aren’t getting the help you need, it’s important to bring this up so they can better assist. While it may feel awkward to do this, therapists are used to this type of conversation and won’t take it personally.

If you’ve just started therapy or are about to, remember to be patient. It can take around 12 sessions for you to truly see clinically significant improvements. Plus, you must make an active effort both in and out of therapy sessions in order to see results and improvements.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time for therapy to work, but stick with it. It’ll be well worth it. 

Looking for a new therapist or haven’t tried it before? We can help.

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About the author
krsitian wilson grow therapy Kristian Wilson, LMHC

Kristian Wilson is a licensed mental health counselor located in Jacksonville, FL. Kristian enjoys working with individuals, couples, and families who would like to explore different perspectives on their overall well-being.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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