Therapy offers numerous benefits, from helping you overcome mental health issues such as anxiety and depression to giving you the mental and emotional toolset you need to change your life for the better.
If you’re considering taking part in therapy, one question you may have is on how long you’ll need to spend at each therapy session.
On average, therapy sessions last between 45 and 55 minutes (a period of time that’s referred to as the “therapeutic hour”).
However, certain types of therapy might involve sessions that are shorter or longer than this.
Below, you’ll find information on why most therapy sessions last for this amount of time, as well as how the type of therapy you choose may affect your average session length.
We’ve also shared what you can do if you’re interested in seeing a therapist but need some help getting started.
Most individual in person or online therapy sessions last for 45 to 55 minutes. If you see a therapist, you’ll usually start your therapy session on the hour, then finish the session about five to 15 minutes before the next hour begins.
The idea behind the 45 to 55 minute “therapy hour” is that it provides your therapist with some extra time at the end of each session to write any relevant notes, clear their mind and prepare for their next session.
Therapy is an involved process, both for you and your therapist, so this five to 15 minute break time is important for ensuring your therapist can give you their full attention and expertise.
It’s very uncommon for therapy sessions to last for less than 45 minutes. The reason for this is that a short session often doesn’t allow for you and your therapist to make enough progress to be worthwhile.
However, in certain cases, your therapist may recommend that you take part in longer therapy sessions.
One situation in which you’ll need to spend longer at therapy is during your first therapy session, which is called an intake session.
During your initial visit, your therapist will gather information to learn more about the issues you are facing.
They may require you to complete certain questionnaires and assessments in order to gain a full understanding of your needs and expectations from therapy.
You’ll also discuss how you’ll pay for therapy, such as through your insurance provider or via a payment plan.
Most intake sessions are a mix of learning about you and going over the more logistical, administrative aspects of therapy.
There’s a lot to cover in a therapy intake session, meaning a typical 45-minute session won’t be long enough.
In general, session times for your first session with an individual therapist will be in the 80 to 90 minute range.
After your intake session is out of the way, your subsequent appointments will be in the form of a typical 45 or 50-minute session with your therapist.
Another form of therapy that generally involves longer treatment sessions is couples therapy. If you and your partner see a couple’s therapist, you can expect each treatment session to last for 75 to 90 minutes.
This longer session time frame gives both you and your partner a chance to participate in therapy.
For some forms of couples therapy, you may take part in several long intake sessions, then change to a different session length and format for subsequent meetings with your therapist.
Since group therapy sessions can involve several people instead of just you and your therapist, they may last for slightly longer than the typical individual therapy session.
In general, you can expect most types of group therapy to last for 50 to 90 minutes.
This added time allows the therapist to connect with all members of the group and make sure that all questions are adequately addressed.
Hers online therapy groups typically last for up to one hour and cover topics such as dealing with anxiety, solving common relationship problems, improving focus, overcoming insomnia and developing mindfulness.
If you need help overcoming a serious, persistent mental or substance abuse disorder, you may benefit from taking part in intensive therapy.
As its name suggests, this form of therapy involves a greater commitment to therapy.
If you take part in intensive therapy, you may see your therapist for several multi-hour sessions on a weekly basis, usually over the course of two to three months.
For example, the American Society of Addiction Medicine defines intensive therapy as involving nine or more hours of therapeutic contact on a weekly basis.
This may take the form of several sessions with your therapist per week, each lasting for two to three hours.
Intensive therapy is a major commitment, but it’s often effective for people with mental health or substance abuse issues that don’t improve with conventional therapy.
There are several ways to see a therapist. You can find a therapist locally, ask your primary care provider for a referral to a mental health provider, or take part in therapy online.
One way to find a therapist is to look locally within your city. You can find therapists in your area by searching for “therapy in [your city]” or “counseling in [your city].”
Most cities will have several practicing therapists you can meet with for in-person sessions.
If you have a limited income, you may also want to search for terms like “affordable therapy” or “sliding-scale therapy” in your city.
Many therapists offer more affordable pricing for people with limited financial resources.
You may want to call each therapy provider ahead of time to find out about their prices, the type of therapy that they offer and their available times for weekly sessions.
Another way to find a therapist is to reach out to your primary care provider and ask for a mental health referral.
Many people turn to their primary care provider first when they start to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health issues.
As someone you already know, your primary care provider can listen to you and address your concerns in a friendly, non-judgmental way.
Depending on your needs, your primary care provider may refer you to a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist for an initial evaluation and treatment plan.
It’s also possible to speak with a licensed therapist online and access a full range of online mental health services, including online individual therapy, support groups, and online psychiatry consultation and medication management.
Taking part in online therapy allows you talk to a licensed therapist from the privacy of your own home, without any need to travel to and from your appointments.
This can make it easier to stick to your plan and achieve your goals for therapy, especially if you live in a remote area or aren’t able to travel far from your home.
In most cases, a single session of therapy will last for 45 to 55 minutes. Some forms of therapy, such as couples counseling or intensive therapy, may last longer.
It’s also common to spend more than one hour at therapy during your initial intake session.
If you’d like to spend longer talking to your therapist, don’t be afraid to ask them. Your therapist might be willing to offer a more flexible schedule, or reduce your time between sessions so you can see them more frequently.
You can learn more about seeking expert help in this guide to what to expect in a therapy session, or access free mental health resources to get a sense of what it’s like to invest in your mental health without any upfront costs.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.
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