This is a question I get asked all the time. How long will it take? How many sessions do people usually need? People rightly want to know how much time and money they will be investing into this process. Unfortunately, there is really no way to give any useful answer to this question. Let me explain.
Imagine you call up a doctor and you tell him, “I’ve got a headache. What will it take to get rid of it?” What kind of answer do you think you are going to get? Without doing a thorough checkup, he can’t possibly know what the cause of the problem is or how to fix it. Were you at a loud concert all day? Perhaps it’s a serious brain disease? Or maybe it’s just stress? Lots of factors have to be taken into account before he can begin to tell you what the solution will be and how much time it will take to get better. And if he just tells you to take an aspirin a day for the next week without doing a thorough checkup, how much do you really trust that he’s got it right? Probably not much.
Working with relationships is even more complex. First of all, we’re dealing with (at least) two people, not just one. And there is a lifetime of experience that needs to be taken into account. Here are just a few of the elements that might be affecting the quality of your current relationship:
- How long you’ve been together
- How long you’ve known each other
- What your previous relationships were like
- Your relationships with your parents (and each other’s)
- How many children you have
- Your religious views
- Your personality differences
- Your life goals
The list can go on and on. When you come in to the therapy room, we start to explore your relationship through your eyes, with a trained ear listening for which of these or any other issues might be the most important. Only then can we offer help that is more sophisticated than “take two tablets and call me in the morning.”
Some couples will come in for one session and find that they’ve gotten what they need to continue the conversation and improve things on their own. Others will want to spend a few weeks working out difficult issues. Still others will keep coming back for months as they work out deep-seated conflicts in the relationship or struggle with challenging circumstances that are not going to go away (for instance, a handicapped child, a medical problem, difficult in-laws, and more).
Where do you fall on that spectrum? I don’t know. It’s not something anyone can answer without getting to know you well (and if anyone does offer you an answer, you should question how genuine that person really is). That said, you don’t have to walk into the process blindly. Read some of our articles on what to expect from counseling, or call us up for a free consultation and we can provide you with more clarity. We still won’t have an answer to the question of how many sessions you’ll need, but we can at least give you a sense of what to expect from the process.