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  • Karen Sussan, LMHC

Psychotherapy: Long Or Short Term

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

These days, you are not alone if you are thinking about starting psychotherapy. The pandemic is very stressful and difficult in so many ways!

But, how can you tell if you need brief or long term psychotherapy?

Now, THAT is a great question.

Many people are confused about such issues when starting psychotherapy. I see that through my pandemic volunteer work with RUACH: A Network for Emotional and Spiritual Support and Referral,

Often, people come to RUACH seeking brief support instead of a longer, steady course of  psychotherapy. I am all for diverse modes of support and help for coping and healing, including brief approaches. But, there are times when brief supportive services simply are not the best course to take. Sometimes, an investment in psychotherapy is a better option. Sometimes, long term psychotherapy is more effective than short term work.

So, how can you tell whether to seek short term or long term help?

Here are some points to consider:

1.Your objectives– 

  1. Short term works if you are seeking to focus on one specific issue.  

  2. Long term works for: 1) addressing several issues or aspects in your life; 2) if you are a bit sketchy on what your concerns are; 3) are interested in better understanding yourself or how your past informs your present life problems.

2. Your confidence in psychotherapy being right for you– 

Psychotherapy is NOT for everyone!

  1. If you are uncertain about therapy, committing to short term might be best. 

  2. If you find it works for you, you can always extend it. 

3.Your view on “homework” between sessions–

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and some other forms of short term psychotherapy tend to require homework between sessions. If you don’t want to do homework between appointments, you might want to consider a longer approach. 

4.Your time framework–

Let’s say you are about to move overseas in several months, then a short term type of therapy might be realistic. Although, these days, with remote psychotherapy (telebehavioral health), you and your psychotherapist distance is less of a challenge. 

5.Your budget–

If you have limited financial resources, you might opt for short term work, which would be better than no psychotherapy at all. Of course, you can also think about how to procure longer term cost effective therapy.

Some other general considerations are:

  1. As a rule, more complex issues require longer time to address. If you have had a  problem for a long time, you might require more time to address it. For instance, if you have a history of addictions or relationship problems rooted in your childhood, longer term therapy is probably best. It’s not that you cannot benefit from short term therapy where you might learn coping skills, but longer term work is useful to address more complex issues.

  2. Some issues are very deeply ingrained. Ingrained issues are often evident through patterns you can observe. Steady, consistent work in psychotherapy over time is usually optimal for addressing such patterns as jumping from one romantic relationship to another or have tremendous anxiety in social situations. Your current awareness of a problem might be just the tip of an iceberg.

IF YOU ARE ON THE FENCE STILL between long and short term psychotherapy, please remember, you are allowed to change your mind. You are not locked in or “trapped” in psychotherapy.

Some support is better than none.

Keep an open-mind.

Please note: psychotherapy is a process!  There are bound to be some surprises along the way.

You can start with short term psychotherapy and then see if you want to repeat another round of short term support or try a longer term approach at that juncture.

Lastly, you can talk to psychotherapists. We have embraced psychotherapy as a process for healing and change. AND, we tend to be open, flexible people!

In fact, I offer initial brief consultations by telephone to discuss these and other considerations.

For starters, you can reach out or contact me on my website Also, my FAQ page might be helpful for addressing some of your concerns.

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