October 12, 2022

How Many Sessions Will It Take to Work?

Written by Rachel Eddins

how many therapy sessions to work

Countless research studies have demonstrated that therapy works! However, depending on the presenting concern, it takes a commitment to a minimum number of therapy sessions for meaningful change to occur.

Counseling sessions can vary in results, based on how many appointments you attend and how you’re progressing. However, when considering therapy keep in mind that completing your treatment plan can lead to substantially significant long-term outcomes.

Many times people start therapy but stop too early for significant improvement to occur.

Asian woman meeting with her therapist research shows therapy works

Therapy: An Investment in Your Emotional and Mental Health

And there is also a significant relationship between mental and physical health. The greater your coping skills, interpersonal relationships, and overall mental health, the greater your physical health.

While there might be scientific averages about the average length of certain treatment plans, it’s important to remember that everyone’s healing journey looks different.

Remain patient and focused on your goals of becoming a healthier version of yourself.


Average Session Length for a Positive Therapeutic Outcome

When you start therapy, you may start to feel better right away. Sometimes simply getting things off your chest relieves the pressure you may have been feeling.

For meaningful change to occur, a minimum number of sessions is typically needed.

Research shows that generally for acute symptoms six to eight sessions are effective. Chronic symptoms typically require 14 or more sessions for a positive outcome.

The type of improvement you can expect in therapy is largely related to the duration of your therapy sessions.

couple meeting with their therapist minimum number of therapy sessions needed to realize maximum benefits of therapy

Average Session Length for a Condition

The average length of your therapy sessions can depend on your mental health condition. Your needs and goals of your sessions can also determine how many you attend to feel you’ve achieved your desired progress.

General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD is when an individual feels they can’t control their worries throughout the day. If you have GAD, you feel worried constantly, seemingly without reason or based on hypothetical situations that haven’t happened. If your worry symptoms last for six months, consider seeking resources to help you cope.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “GAD affects 6.8 million adults or 3.1% of the U.S. population.” It’s a common mental health struggle where you may experience panic attacks and tense limbs.

On average, to start seeing results from your GAD therapy may take about eight to 10 sessions.


There are several types of depression you may experience, such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. If you’re feeling depressed, you may experience a low mood for several weeks and feel like there’s no hope of feeling better.

On average, it may take about six to eight therapy sessions to notice your progress.

Chronic depression may take longer to experience meaningful change. In your sessions, you can learn tools and strategies to help you cope with your depression and make it more manageable to live with and complete your daily tasks.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that occurs when you’ve witnessed or experienced a traumatic experience. You may have flashbacks of the event that leave you feeling paralyzed in your body or having a physical reaction as if the event were taking place.

If you’re living with PTSD, you may avoid other individuals and places that remind you of the event. To notice progress in your condition, it may take between 15 to 20 sessions.


If you’re encountering challenges in your relationship and you’re seeking couples therapy, it may take several sessions to notice a difference in how you interact with and feel about your partner. For example, if you and your partner are experiencing financial difficulties or communication issues, this may take about four to six sessions.

More complex relationship issues may take about 12 to 16 sessions to get to the root of the issue and find strategies right for you and your partner.

For individual therapy on interpersonal issues, approximately 16 sessions are needed for significant improvement in interpersonal difficulties.


woman at therapy everyone's healing journey looks different

Average Session Length for Treatment Types

Certain types of therapy are effective for specific concerns while others can be effective for multiple types of symptoms. Each type of therapy can have different goals in the treatment process.

Here are a few examples of different types of therapy and what to expect:

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational enhancement therapy is person-centered and focuses on helping you improve your motivation to change. You and your therapist can find an internal motivation within you that’s long-lasting to help you. This type of therapy may help you improve various aspects of your life, including relationships, health, and family life.

If you’re struggling with an addiction, this therapy can help you begin your recovery process.

To notice changes in your behavior, this therapy may take about four sessions. This can be especially helpful if you’ve struggled with a problematic behavior or addiction for a period of time. You may have tried to cut back or quit multiple times and found it challenging to do on your own. Motivational enhancement therapy can help you cross that bridge into active change.

However, for sustainable change in your behaviors and recovery process, an additional 8-12 sessions may be needed. Based on the types of symptoms or behaviors you’d like to change, your therapist will recommend an appropriate treatment plan and may incorporate different therapy types in the process.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

Solution-focused brief therapy is short-term goal-focused and a collaborative process with your therapist. You can work with your therapist to find what works for you as they apply positive psychology principles and practices to monitor your responses to different stimuli. It focuses on sustainable, inspiring goals to help you.

On average, this therapy can vary depending on how quickly you can find a solution. This type of therapy is time-limited, and it may take one to 40 sessions to find your solution.


man meeting with his therapist generally a minimum number of therapy sessions are needed

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a psychotherapy treatment that helps relieve your traumatic memories and strenuous life experiences. This therapy can help you reframe negative beliefs to improve how you interact with your thoughts and others in your daily life.

Rather than completing traditional talk therapy, you can lower the power of your traumatic thoughts with rapid rhythmic eye movements. The sessions focus on three main events, which are the past, present, and future.

On average, you can notice drastic changes after three EMDR sessions. After six to 12 sessions, you may have processed your traumas and how to deal with them.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychoanalysis is a therapy that focuses on your unconscious mind. Your therapist can use a combination of theories and techniques to help you uncover unconscious thoughts and feelings and process traumatic experiences.

Often, the goal of this type of therapy is to encourage a structural change in you and modify personality traits based on your therapy goals. It helps you understand how your unconscious behaviors affect your life and ways you can replace them with healthy, creative expressions.

On average, these sessions can take 12 or more before you notice a difference because you’re working with your unconscious mind to explore your past experiences.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most common therapies for individuals to attend, and it focuses on working with your therapist to alter your thoughts and behavior.

In your sessions, you can identify thoughts that limit what you think about yourself and what you’re capable of accomplishing in life. Then, you can replace the limiting thoughts with healthier and helpful thoughts.

This therapy is helpful for a plethora of challenges you might be encountering, such as eating disorders, anxiety disorders, depression disorders, substance dependence, or relationship issues.

On average, cognitive-behavioral therapy may take about 12 to 20 sessions, with 45 minutes for each appointment. After your sessions, you may find you’re improving and functioning in your life more effectively than before.

do you need to schedule a therapy appointment call or text Eddins Counseling Group today for appointments in Houston or online

Next Steps

Our team at Eddins Counseling Group wants to help you find the best treatment plan right for you and your mental health goals.

Contact us now to book an appointment to learn more about different types of therapy that best fit your condition. We’ll be happy to pair you with a “best fit” therapist in Houston, Montrose, or Sugar Land.

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