For many people, starting therapy can seem daunting — and for an array of reasons. One of those reasons could be worries about committing to something long-term. Another might be not knowing what kind of therapy is right for you.
In these cases, therapy with a limited time frame might be useful. Therapy need not be a long-term commitment to your routine. Short-term therapy, or brief therapy, is a possible option and can exist on a spectrum of time frames — from anywhere between a handful of sessions to a few months of regular meetings.
When it comes to therapy, everyone’s needs are different. Here are some reasons why short-term therapy might be right for you:
Short-term therapy for specific needs
Short-term therapy can help with specific situations, behaviors, or concerns that you’d like to work on. There are some circumstances or life changes that may occur that prompt you to want to speak with someone, such as a death of a loved one or a negative thought pattern. It can be something big or small. If it is a particular thing that is pushing you to seek therapy, it’s possible that short-term therapy could be right for you.
Long-term therapy, on the other hand, can be more open-ended and unstructured, allowing you to make new revelations and discover understandings about oneself along the way. It may also involve talking through the past and present to identify patterns and roots of one’s own behavior. This can diverge from the hyperfocus of short-term therapy. Both formats can and should be shaped by you and your therapist based on your particular needs.
You can test therapy out without pressure
If you’re new to therapy, you may find it beneficial to come into the practice without any pressure. Committing to short-term therapy might also make it easier to initially begin; it might seem intimidating or scary to start therapy if you think you’re committing to something long-term, or if you aren’t sure what exactly you’re getting into.
This sort of brief therapy can be helpful for people who feel they’d like to receive therapy but aren’t yet sure, or want to test it first and see. It can also be a great thing for people whose schedules may not allow for longer-term therapy. For those in need of care, even short-term therapy is better than receiving no care at all.
You can focus on finding solutions, building skills, and achieving goals
Because short-term therapy often revolves around one or a few specific concerns, much of your time in the session will steer towards tackling that issue and finding solutions. That can involve adding new resources to your mental toolkit to deal with that issue; for example, a specific stress-management tool, or perhaps an organizational or coping technique. This is all in service of achieving goals set by you and your therapist.
Some individuals — especially those who have a clear picture of a behavior or pattern they want to work on — find that this focused, get-right-into-it approach works best for them.
Progress is possible, even in the short term
Just because the therapy sessions are limited, doesn’t mean they are not dynamic, engaged, and impactful. Even in a short amount of time, it is possible to see changes in yourself, even big ones.
Because the care is more targeted, you’re able to work with a focus on one or a handful of targets and goals together with your therapist. The care will likely include some concrete plans for change and focused discussions on what you’d like to see changed. You can employ the lessons and tools from these short-term sessions into your life, independently — making space for long-term positive effects.
Of course, some concerns, including more severe mental health issues, will require more intensive care and a longer-term relationship with a therapist. The length and style of therapy you seek is a decision best made by yourself and perhaps by speaking with a therapy provider.
If you feel you’d like to speak to someone, Georgetown Psychology has therapists ready to provide short- or long-term therapy for clients — or to speak with you about the type of therapy that may be right for you.