If you have the privilege of being able to access therapy, you might have a lot of questions about what to expect from it. Who benefits from it? What happens during your first session? And how often do you have to go?
For example, she says, if your therapist is treating you with dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), which consists of learning skill sets like regulating your emotions, you might be going to therapy more often, both for individual sessions with your therapist and group sessions with other people in treatment. (Selena Gomez, for example, once said she saw her therapist five days a week for DBT.)
But in general, Dr. Bradford says that people usually are in therapy once a week or every other week, especially if you're just starting treatment.
"When you’re just starting treatment and this is your first time getting to know the therapist and you’re still explaining some of your history, it generally is not suggested that you have that much time between sessions," she says.
But even if you've been in therapy for some time, it's better not to go too long between sessions, because it's harder to make progress that way.
"You don’t want to have this really great session and then you don’t see the person again for a month and you’ve lost that momentum," Dr. Bradford says. "You want to keep up with visits as much as possible, and that’s really where the weekly and biweekly sessions come from."
It generally is not suggested that you have that much time between sessions.
Joy Harden Bradford, PhD
Aside from forms of treatments like DBT, your therapist might also want to see you more often if they believe you're in serious crisis.
"If you’re in the midst of a crisis or doing intensive work, you might be going more than once a week," Dr. Bradford says. "If you’re in a crisis situation, I’m likely to want to see you at least once a week just to make sure everything is going okay. It’s in your best interest and your therapist’s best interests to not let too much time go by between sessions if you’re actively suicidal."
And because therapy tends to be expensive, how often you go might also be dictated by how many sessions per week your insurance will pay for (if you use insurance). Dr. Bradford says that typically, insurance companies don't generally pay for therapy for more than one session per week, so if you are seeing your therapist more often, you might have to pay out of pocket for the other sessions or make another arrangement.
"If you’re not using insurance and you found a person you like and can only afford to see them twice a month, that can also be a part of the conversation [about how often you're going]," she says.
Once a therapist deems that someone is in the "maintenance stage," where they're generally recovered and are just checking in and brushing up on skills to manage their mental health, Dr. Bradford says that's when they might be able to stagger appointments out to once a month or so, until they might eventually want to stop going to therapy.
Either way, your therapist will hopefully be able to work with you to figure out a schedule that works for the both of you.
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.