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Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
If you are pursuing therapy, chances are you want it to impact your life in a positive way — and it certainly can.
In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health says that therapy may help anyone who is dealing with stress, has difficulty focusing, is going through a life change or is feeling overwhelmed.
And, let’s face it, who doesn’t go through at least one of those things at some point in life? (Those things can all happen within the span of a week!)
But if you want to get the most out of therapy for whatever mental health issue you may be facing, you’ll want to strategize how to make the most of it.
Identifying the type of therapy that will help you is important, as is finding the right mental health professional. Finding someone you feel comfortable opening up to is a non-negotiable.
Once you do those things, you’ll want to go on a regular basis. But what does that mean? More specifically, how often should you see a therapist?
We’ll dive into that...but first, let’s dig into a little background information on therapy in general.
The National Institute of Mental Health says that therapy can be beneficial for anyone who is dealing with stress, has difficulty focusing, is going through a life change or is feeling overwhelmed.
There are even studies that have shown just what therapy can do to help a person.
For example, therapy may boost resilience in your daily life. One study found that attending therapy to help manage anxiety and depression could reduce the return of symptoms (even after stopping therapy).
CBT centers on helping you identify negative thought patterns and implementing skills that can aid you in managing them.
Taking care of your mental health may also boost your physical health.
See, chronic stress and anxiety can lead to all kinds of ailments — including a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, aches and pains, and shortness of breath.
Fact: You’ll need to feel comfortable with your therapist. The American Psychological Association even says that your bond with a therapist is at least as important to a good outcome as using the right method.
But where do you look for the right fit? Here are some ways people find a match made in therapy heaven:
Get a referral: If you have another type of healthcare provider you trust, ask if they know a therapist who could be a good fit for you. Or, if you’re comfortable, ask friends if they have suggestions.
These are all people who know you, so they may be able to suggest a therapist who will work with your personality.
Use your insurance network: Many insurance networks offer directories of in-network providers. Also helpful: They usually allow you to search by proximity to where you live. A common reason given by people who do not seek help is that they can’t afford it, so finding someone partially covered by insurance could be a smart place to start.
Do an online search: There are lots of helpful resources on the internet. For example both the American Psychological Association and Anxiety and Depression Association of America have tools to help locate a therapist. Both can assist you in finding licensed therapists in your neighborhood. You can also seek help for mental health online.
Now, you may be thinking, “Once I locate a therapist, how can I tell if they’d be a good fit?”
Great question! Most therapists offer an introductory phone call or abbreviated first session to get to know one another.
During this time, it’s a good idea to come prepared with therapy questions that will help you get a better feel for how your new therapist works.
The questions below are all aimed at helping you get a sense of how someone works and what you can expect if you choose to see them:
What training do you have?
How do you approach treatment?
How will we know if I’m making progress?
How much do you charge?
You can read a bit more about what to expect in your first therapy session here.
So, let’s say you’ve determined that mental health treatment can benefit you and have even found a therapist you think you’ll be comfortable opening up to.
The next thing you need to think about is how often you’ll see that person. The truth is, it depends.
First, it’s helpful to know that some therapy is open-ended and some is time-specific.
If you’re seeing a therapist for more general anxiety and depression or your overall mental health, it’ll likely be open-ended which means there is no set number of sessions.
If you are going with a very specific goal (for example, perhaps you’re nervous about your upcoming wedding or need guidance on dealing with a work situation), it could be more of a situation where you go for a set number of sessions and then stop.
As for how often you’ll go, many people begin by having weekly therapy sessions.
Weekly sessions can help you get comfortable more quickly, especially when you’re first building that therapeutic relationship.
Once you feel like you’re in a groove, you’ll be able to better determine how often it makes sense to see a therapist.
Some people continue weekly treatment, whereas others may reduce the frequency to biweekly sessions or less.
You can work with your therapist to figure out what will work best for you and your needs.
If you’re worried about making appointments, online therapy can be a good resource.
You can do it right from home (or anywhere, really), making it easy to fit into your schedule, and it can be just as effective as in-person sessions.
From addressing depression and anxiety to helping you feel more confident and secure, therapy can do wonders. Heck, it can even make you feel better physically.
But, for it to work as well as you want it to, it’s important to find the right therapist.
Through searching for the right person and then asking them questions to suss out how they work and if you mesh well, you can find a therapist you’ll likely feel comfortable with.
After that, meeting with that person once a week can help you set up a good rapport. Once you feel like you have a good flow, you may consider seeing your therapist a little less.
Another great thing to remember: You can adjust how often you see your therapist throughout your time with them.
For example, during tough periods you may request more frequent sessions. When life is flowing a bit more smoothly, you may see them a bit less.
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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