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Counselling: How many sessions?

How many sessions of counselling will I need?

This is a question that people often ask when they are thinking about making an appointment for counselling. The answer is that it depends on the person and the stage they are at: Some people want to address all their issues, some people just want to make a slight improvement in their lives. Sometimes further issues emerge as counselling develops. Some counselling approaches believe that all clients need long-term therapy, and some believe that no one should ever need to be in counselling for a long time, but the reality is that it just depends.

You might find it useful to consider the following questions:

• What do you want to talk about in the sessions and what do you really want to get from them?

• Do you have a particular budget or any time constraints?

• How quickly do you work? Some people process things faster than others so it’s important to work at a pace that suits you.

Short or long term counselling?

The trend in the past few years has been a promotion of short term counselling – meaning usually no more than six sessions. This has been highly influenced by cost – whether it is covered by a person’s workplace, or a health insurance company or by the client themselves, value for money has become important. Also, our society is increasingly fast paced and we simply expect fast results in all areas of our lives. Long term therapy is sometimes equated in peoples’ minds with psychoanalysis and the ideas of Austrian doctor Sigmund Freud from the late 1800s/early 1900s. They might believe that the therapist will be analysing the person to reveal deep seated ‘issues’ that may take years (and huge amounts of money) to uncover let alone resolve.

Short term therapy can be extremely effective where the focus is on helping clients to find new approaches to overcoming present difficulties or challenges. These might include stress management, conflicts at work, communication and relationship issues, parenting, making life changes and decisions. Some people find that they benefit from using small amounts of counselling throughout their lives when they hit a difficult patch.
If the issues are more deep seated, have to do with abuse, bullying or trauma (especially dating back to childhood) longer term therapy may be more beneficial. Length of time is also affected by how open clients are with themselves and with their counsellor. Effectiveness of counselling depends on trust and comfort level, and these take time to build.

A typical short term solution-focussed counselling session might include the following elements:

• Setting clear goals around what you hope to get from the sessions and how do you hope to feel at the end of the counselling

• Discovering ways to improve your confidence

• Ways to manage your anxiety

• Finding coping strategies for stress

• Finding ways of being more assertive

• Finding and learning new coping strategies and tools that work for you such as breathing techniques, mindfulness or an emergency drill to stop panic attacks.

• Accessing your own resources and strengths which will help you to cope with stressful situations or anxious feelings

• Re-framing negative and unhelpful thoughts to alternative more helpful thoughts and feelings

Longer term counselling might be beneficial when:

• You have noticed that you keep repeating negative patterns in your relationships or in other aspects of your life that leave you feel puzzled and wondering why this is so.

• You have experienced trauma in your life, particularly in childhood but also in your later life which is still affecting the way you live your life today

• You may be stuck in a cycle of grief and finding it difficult to move forward with your life.

• You have been experiencing low mood or depression for a long time and find it a struggle to cope.

It’s your call

Whether you come for 2 sessions or 22, the most important thing is that you feel that your counsellor is the right person for you at this stage of your life. Also that he or she includes the opportunity for you both to review the situation on a session by session basis, ensuring that the counselling is truly meeting your needs and that you are achieving your own personal goals.

For more information on the counselling services I offer in Cork go to my Counselling Cork page.

For more information on the counselling services I offer in Douglas go to my Counselling Douglas page.

Need some more advice and support?

If you are interested in finding out more about counselling and whether it is for you, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.

Book a counselling session today!