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Are weekly sessions the best idea?

People that embark on a programme of therapy tend to go once a week. It’s a nice sensible arrangement and allows both the therapist and client to get into a routine of regular intervals and seeing each other at the same time on the same day.

But is there any reason why this amount of time in between sessions is anything other than for convenience?

It is common for a prospective client to ask at the initial assessment “How many sessions do you think I’ll need?”. This really cannot be answered as the results will vary wildly depending on the type of therapy being practiced, the issues being presented, the personality of the client and any number of other variables. (Unless, of course, you are getting therapy from a local authority or organisation that caps the number of sessions you can have from the outset.)

Let’s say, hypothetically, the answer is 10 sessions. So, the client could sit there thinking that in about 2 ½ months they could hope to see an improvement in themselves or the situation they find themselves in.

So, if it takes 10 sessions, why can’t you see the client for 10 days straight and they can see the benefit in less than 2 weeks? How about 5 days in a row of ‘double sessions’ and it can all be done by the weekend?

The first thing to consider is that, for a lot of people, therapy can be tiring. It’s hard to imagine the toll it takes on you, mentally, to focus on things about yourself and explore those deep areas of what makes you ‘you’, unless you have done it yourself. Some clients report feeling energised when they first come out of the session, but the tiredness comes on later in the day. Either way, it takes a lot of energy.

Add to this what goes on with the client on a psychological level if they have just spent an hour digging into certain areas of their life that may be troubling, upsetting or anger filled. The therapist should have ensured the client is in a fit state to leave the room after looking at these things, but the fact is that these subjects will now be closer to the surface for the client and, therefore, easier to recall. It may take time to process these feelings that have previously been hidden away and for some it can take several days before they feel they are ready to dig back down in the safety of the therapy room. Just these two factors alone can be reason enough to not have sessions too close together.

Then consider the financial aspect. If the therapist charges £50 per session, not many people have £500 spare to spend on intensive therapy over just a week or two. £500 spread over 10 weeks seems more manageable. So, why not spread it out over 20 weeks then? One session every 2 weeks is even more affordable.

Well, just as it can be difficult for the client if the sessions are too close, having them too far apart can also cause problems. If it takes a few days to recover and process the session itself, there is often then another few days thinking about the implications of what's been said and how to react to it. Maybe the client makes some decisions about their life before the next session. After 7 days the client has had chance to do all those things and then return for the next round of exploration. If this next session is now a further 7 days away the client can feel in limbo. As if they have brought all these things to the surface, are ready to deal with them but cannot do it alone and doesn’t know where to put them in the meantime. They can then become confused or vulnerable.

Also, our bodies and minds are almost programmed to operate in weekly cycles. Many of us do certain things at certain times on the same days of the week. Alarms go off on Mondays through to Friday but not on the weekend. Saturday may be the day for a cooked breakfast and Sunday may be the day for roast dinner. Routines can be good. Monday morning may be when your friend always comes around for coffee and Wednesday night might be when you always meet at your club. Your brain knows what is ahead and is prepared for it.

This is why it is beneficial to have a regular day and time to have therapy sessions. Your brain starts to realise that for that period of time on that day it is allowed to explore, be honest, open up, take risks and generally be itself in a way it probably cannot be for the rest of the week.

All things considered, in most cases, weekly sessions seem to be the best option. It allows for regular routine, gives the client chance to recover in between and doesn’t leave them with long periods being unable to process the things they have looked at.

Even though we live in a world full of instant gratification and results on demand, there are some things that still cannot be rushed.

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