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Thread: How long is too long to be in therapy?

  1. #1

    How long is too long to be in therapy?

    Hi all,

    I'm feeling down about the thought of my therapy having to end one day. I know it's silly and rationally I know everything has to end, including therapy but I can't imagine ever being without my therapist. I have been seeing her for 2 years now. I am now pregnant for the second time and fear that I will spend alot of time talking about the pregnancy and my fears, which I already spent 9 months doing with my first baby! Because of that, I feel as if I haven't been focusing consistently on my issues. But on the other hand, once I've had this baby, I'll have been seeing my therapist for nearly 3 years. That sounds like a really long time. But I know I will still want to see her. I'm afraid that she'll feel as if I have been there too long or that I'll never leave and then I'll feel uncomfortable there. This is how my last therapy went wrong, because I asked her if she would tell me if she thought I had been coming too long and she then said she thought it would be a good time to finish, right there and then, in the last 5 mins of the session. I was really hurt and never got over it enough to continue therapy with her.

    I guess I'm just wondering what others experiences are and how long people have been in therapy and if the therapist ever commented on the time frame?

    Thanks everyone for listening. I'm getting paranoid about this.


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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    North American lakes and rivers

    Re: How long is too long...

    Hi Poss,

    I can totally understand. I used to think that too...I was quite worried about it. My therapist explained it very well to me - she basically said she wasn't going anywhere until I was ready for her to go, and as therapy progresses she will take up less and less of my time and energy, so that when the time for her to leave does come, it won't hurt because I'll be ready.

    When she said that I gave her the courtesy head nod all the while thinking "But I'll NEVER be ready to live without you" but actually...I'm getting closer and closer to that point and I know it because I'm ok with it. If I was in a state of panic I would know I'm not ready to ease off but rather was being forced by one thing or another (finances, time, scheduling, etc).

    So, all that to say - try not to invest the energy you should be investing into therapy, into worrying about terminating. When the time comes, if it's done properly, it will be ok. It'll still be hard, but it won't seem nearly as daunting as it does now.

    ---------- Post added at 11:26 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:24 AM ----------

    And to answer your last question...

    I've been with my current therapist for two and a half years and was with another one prior to that for two and a half years, and have just started seeing a different one...all the changes are by my choice because there are limits as to what each one can do for me. There was truly a time where I thought I could never survive without therapy, but I'm actually getting closer to being able to. I've been cutting back on my sessions, knowing I can boost them if I need to.
    ~ Allow yourself to be the light that the world so desperately needs. ~ Unknown

  4. #3

    Re: How long is too long...

    I don't know what would be the cause of your not seeing your therapist unless you no longer felt the need to see her. That's what my current psychiatrist has told me.

    I've seen differennt psychiatirsts and therapists for over 30 years - my current psychiatrist for 10 years I prefer not to think that a failure but a journey that will take as long as it is required. I don't have a problem with her being away, taking holidays etc. I do find that I need her to prescribe my medication which general medical practitioners won't do so eaily here - mine are of an addictive nature and too many people try to get them prescribed to feed their addiction rather than deal with other issues so doctors are wary of prescribing them. I also know that there is no-one else, apart from my counsellor who knows me so well to help me when my issues become too much to handle.

  5. #4

    Re: How long is too long...


    I have been seeing my Psychiatrist for 5 years now. He has never brought up a time frame, ever.

    I wouldn't put a time frame on healing. In my opinion.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    British Columbia

    Re: How long is too long...

    It may be a good idea Poss to bring this up with your therapist, especially what happened with your last therapist. It's great practice to talk about boundaries and expectations on both your parts. This can even give you a chance to clarify your own goals for therapy.

    Hope this helps.

  7. Re: How long is too long...

    i think what you are feeling right now is very natural. i've had that feeling myself, being down about the end of therapy.

    my first therapist i saw for just about a year. the last few times i saw him were spread out, we went to two weeks apart then to a month and a follow up 2 or 3 months later, so it wasn't a full year's worth. he essentially made the decision to end the therapy and it was very hard on me. it was very hurtful and i am still angry for how he handled things. i am sorry you've had to go through that too, and in fact i find it very harsh that your therapist ended things then and there right at the end of your session. ending therapy is a process in itself that needs to be worked through together, for some people it's quick (a session or two), for others it might take longer and other things surface. (see Terminating therapy - what, why, how - Psychlinks Psychology Self-Help & Mental Health Support Forum). 5 minutes at the end of a session is just ridiculous and very badly handled.

    about a month after i last saw my first therapist i started with my current therapist. i've been seeing her about a year and a half now. so i've been doing this for about 2.5 years now.

    not too long ago i started worrying about the end of therapy myself, but i have since come to realize just what turtle said: by the time it's time to end therapy i'll be ok with it. how do i know this? because that is the whole goal of therapy. the goal is to have dealt with our difficulties and feeling ready to face life on our own. i don't doubt i'll be sad about it because i know i'll really miss her. but i'll be okay, and i know this because i have felt more okay than i have in the past several years. as long as you don't feel okay with the idea of no therapy then you're not ready. you will hit a point where you will be okay with it. i know that's really hard to imagine and i never really could imagine it for myself. but i've had a feel of life as it should be for a while now (for the most part) and that has given me the insight that when i am ready, i'll be ready and it will be ok.

    the other thing that also helps in this is that when we finish therapy it doesn't mean we're never allowed to return. should anything ever come up in your life again that you need help with you can return. i find a lot of comfort in that. my therapist will be there if i need her.

    i wouldn't worry about your current pregnancy taking up "valuable time". it isn't. i've also found that certain things have brought me to therapy but then as those things are being worked on, life still continues on and other things will happen that we need support and help for. don't worry about being side tracked, it's part of the whole process.

    congratulations on your pregnancy, by the way!
    ~ our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising each time we fall - confucius
    ~ it is the journey, not the destination, that matters
    ~ keep hanging on, the sun will come shining through for you again

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Pasadena, California

    Re: How long is too long...

    "How long is too long?" is a great question. I've seen this question stem from fears that:

    1. I'm going to become overly-dependent on the therapist
    2. I'm moving too slowly and the therapist is getting tired of me
    3. If I've been in therapy this long (2 months, 2 years, etc) and I'm not well yet, will I ever get better?
    4. Maybe a better therapist would have cured me by now.

    Poss, your concern seems to be mostly regarding #2, so I hope you don't mind that I address all four. Frankly, someone could write pages on these topics, but I'll try to keep it relatively brief.

    First, the issue of dependency. Many people are scared of becoming dependent on their therapist, and this is often equated with the amount of time they're in treatment. But dependency is about quality, not quantity. One client could have a totally enmeshed dependency after three sessions while another could spend 13 years in therapy and maintain a healthy sense of individuality. Dependency is about how the relationship functions - is the client handing over their power for decision making? Are other relationships suffering because all the client's emotional energy is going toward therapy? That's dependency. Sure, someone stuck in their dependency may stay in therapy for a longer period of time, but if the therapist is worth their salt I would hope the nature of the relationship is a primary focus of treatment. Furthermore - I believe there is such a thing as healthy dependency in therapy. Typically near the beginning of treatment, with someone in a great deal of pain or crisis, I think their being able to look to the therapist for guidance and support can be good for the client and the overall relationship. Dependency gets a bad rap in this line of work, but I think with clear boundaries and good communication it can serve the therapy very well.

    For point #2, I agree with ladylore. I think it's good for therapist and client to check in regularly - at least every 4 or 5 sessions, if not more often - for a state of the union. How are we doing? How am I feeling about coming? What's frustrating me about this work? How is progress coming on my original goals? I think having this all out in the open is crucial. But there's another part of this I hear quite often: clients think I must get tired of listening to them. Now poss, I know you had an experience that seems to confirm this, but I think that has to be the exception. Therapists get into this work to listen to people and help them. Those with good training, experience and self-care should know this process takes time and requires patience. If they lack that knowledge and patience, perhaps they're in the wrong line of work. That's like a plumber getting frustrated or resentful toward leaky pipes. It's what we're trained (and some would say called) to do. I usually find this is more about the client feeling frustrated with their problems and tired of talking about the same problems. They assume I must be tired of it, too.

    Point three is a bit elusive. People grow, heal and change at different rates. Everyone's story is different, and so the healing process will be different. A woman reporting depression following a divorce may feel great after 6 sessions, while a man reporting depression regarding childhood abuse may be in a deeper depression 3 years in. We just don't know. It might be good to educate yourself on your issue (there are books out there for everything) and talk with your therapist about your prognosis (whether or not, or how much relief you can expect). I find the body & psyche want to heal, and through providing the right environment and removing blockages we tend to get better. If I didn't believe it, I'd be in the wrong line of work.

    And the final point, about whether or not your therapist is adequate. There are a few basics: do they have education, do they have a license, do they have experience with people like you, do you feel comfortable with him/her. With these elements in place, therapy should move along fairly well. But if it doesn't, I would hope you're discussing this in your regular state of the union talks. And if it seems you're still at an impasse, it may be time to start the termination process and start test-driving other therapists.

    Well, poss, I jumped from your topic into a bunch of different yet related areas. Thanks for giving me a chance to share some thoughts and exercise my fingers. I hope you get the help you need.

  9. #8

    Re: How long is too long...


    Thanks to everyone for their support and thanks Turtle and Amastie for sharing and giving me a bit of hope about this.

    ITL, what you said has reassured me a bit that one day I will be in the right place to quit therapy. Sometimes I just lose faith in the process and feel stuck and then I'll remain stuck and won't ever come out the other side.

    My therapist is like a mother figure to me. I think that's why I feel so dependent and she has admitted several times to feeling motherly towards me and feeling like she wants to take care of me. Sometimes I feel like my only reason for therapy is just to hear those kind words and that I'm not really working as hard as I should, just hoping and hoping she will say those motherly things again.

    Whenever I ask a question like this, I kind of know the answer is usually talk to your therapist about it, so maybe one day I'll feel able to but I don't just yet.

    Thank you all, I appreciate it.


  10. #9

    Re: How long is too long...

    Quote Originally Posted by ladylore View Post
    It may be a good idea Poss to bring this up with your therapist, especially what happened with your last therapist. It's great practice to talk about boundaries and expectations on both your parts. This can even give you a chance to clarify your own goals for therapy.

    Hope this helps.

    Ps: Poss, you're expecting a baby! I misses that. How silly of me! My niece has just given birth to a beautiful baby boy. Congratulations. Looking forward to hearing how it goes!

    amastie added 17 Minutes and 55 Seconds later...

    Poss, reading your last post, I know that it is different for other people so I'm eager not to suggest that my response is necessarily the right or only response but whenever I hear a therapist express feelings that go beyond those strictly of a professional nature - such as those who say they feel motherly or want to be my friend or, worse, talk of feeling love for me, I freak well and truly and would baulk at therapy with such a person. Such sentiments, in my opinion encourage an emotional dependency that I would never want to occur. I feel blessed with my psych. who shares my achievements but does so as my psychiatrist/healer, not as my friend. But *please* know that others have said very different things and have expressed very different needs of their therapist/dr.

    Last edited by amastie; February 7th, 2009 at 04:05 AM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost

  11. #10

    Re: How long is too long...

    Hi Amastie,

    Thanks for the congrats!

    And thanks for your concern. To be honest sometimes I've had this gut feeling that something isn't quite as it should be between my therapist and I and she once said to me that no matter what I say or do in our sessions, she will still love me. I did freak out when she said that, I was a bit shocked. She went on to say something like 'metaphorically speaking' but I was still taken aback.

    I guess the problem is that I like to hear that she cares about me, even if I feel it may not be the right thing for me in the long-term. Rationally I feel I'm a bit trapped because of this but emotionally I crave it.


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