When “Should” Therapy End?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I have been seeing my therapist now for over 16 years. Issues around my severe depression after a family member’s suicide and the untimely death of my grandmother brought me in originally. I have had so many issues to deal with that I have been able to over come over this time with her. I have raised two successful sons, kept my marriage together, sought out a career and earned a degree. Things that never seemed possible when i first began seing her. I am now dealing with major issues around childhood abuse, attachment, and sexual dysfunction and some self injury. Issues which have always been present, but I was never able to confront and deal with. My question is: Is it Ok to be in therapy this long? I am fortunate to have great health care and I feel close to my therapist. She has helped me to to grow into the woman I am today. My husband is glad that I have this older woman that I can talk with. My own mother has had her own personal issues since i was a child and I never had a maternal loving relationship with her. My therapist is kind compassionate and sensitive to the myriad of issues I am dealing with. I just hear so many people talk about “crazy” people who are too dependent on their therapists. I see my therapist once a week right now because there was a family crisis I was and am dealing with but usually it has been every other week or every three weeks. I find talking with her to be helpful and reassuring. She is kind of like a mother to me. Our relationship is strong and she makes me feel safe. When do you think a person should quit therapy?

A. Please ignore the information you’ve heard with regard to people becoming too dependent on their therapists. Maybe that does happen occasionally but it’s not the norm. How long a person should stay in therapy is largely dependent on many individual and personal factors. It’s ridiculous to think that there is a set limit on the number of years one should attend therapy. Woody Allen and Richard Lewis have said in public that they been going to therapy for much of their adult lives and have no plans to stop. Why don’t they stop? Probably because it helps them live better lives so why should they stop.

There is no limit as to how many sessions you “should” have. There is no national guideline for how long therapy “should” last. The choice is 100 percent yours as to how long you wish to stay. You should continue therapy for as long as you feel it is helping you. Don’t listen to what people say otherwise. No one knows what’s best for you better than you do. Do what is best for you. If that means that you attend therapy for the rest of your natural life and it helps you improve the quality of your life then so be it. I wish you luck and many more happy years of therapy (if you so choose).

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Mar 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). When “Should” Therapy End?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/03/09/when-should-therapy-end/