Q. How do I figure out how long is TOO long to be seeing a therapist for? Are there books written on the subject of people becoming addicted to their therapist, or therapy? I have been seeing my therapist (a psychologist) for 3 years now, and I feel so blessed to have her as a part of my life. I just find at times that I feel panicky just before leaving a session. (My therapist is aware of this…) I started seeing her after just losing a job, realizing I was turning into my mom, (not a good thing) and in short, for depression and anxiety. We are doing psychotherapy, which I understand, can take years. I am a very curious and philosophical person, digging for truth. Books and info are good. Thanks.
A. I know of no book that can advise you on how long you should stay in therapy. The only person who knows how long you should stay in therapy is you and your therapist. You should stay in therapy for however long you and your therapist believe it is necessary and beneficial. Additionally, I would dispute the fact you are addicted to therapy. If you feel you need therapy, and stay in therapy because it is helpful and it helps you grow into a healthy human being, then you are making an extremely smart decision to stay in therapy. This is not an addiction—it’s a smart decision. From my perspective, there is no correct or definitive time limit or time frame for how long a person should be in therapy. How long therapy should last will vary from person to person. The truth is that it can take many, many years to help an individual overcome problems or issues. The idea that a person can and should overcome depression, for example, in 20 sessions (the amount of sessions the average insurance company will authorize per year) is purely arbitrary. The truth is that it depends. Some individuals can overcome depression in 20 sessions but most others cannot. If you can afford it and you have a therapist that you like, then I would advise you stay in therapy for as long as you think it is helpful to you. Many famous people have been in therapy for more than 20 years. We are not talking about mentally ill individuals who cannot stop therapy but persons who are highly productive and functioning at a high level. When interviewed these people state that they in therapy because they are progressing. They are there by choice and find it to be the factor that has helped them to succeed in life, not merely function in life. Most persons follow a Personal Discomfort approach to counseling or therapy. This means that they started their therapy because they chose to. No one forced them to start (i.e. law enforcement or the courts). They will stay in therapy as long as they feel that they are benefiting. If they feel that therapy is beneficial they will continue. If they feel that it is no longer of benefit they will quit, even if their therapist feels they should not. I hope this has helped in some small way. Take care.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Feb 2007
Randle, K. (2007). Am I Addicted to Therapy?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 10, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/02/16/am-i-addicted-to-therapy/