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How long is therapy going to take?

By Marté Matthews, LMFT

Finding a therapist for your children can be a stressful process. Parents calling Child & Family Counseling Group to find a therapist for their children usually have many questions. Can you help my child? Can you help me as a parent? And often: How long is therapy going to take?

These are all good questions to be asking. At Child & Family Counseling Group we have therapists who work with children and adolescents ages 2-22, and all of our therapists work closely with parents throughout the process. To learn more about the process of what child therapy is about, please go to this link:

The question of how long therapy is going to take doesn’t have a simple answer. We wish we could assure you the process would be short and simple. Sometimes, of course, that is the case. But many times the problems have been a long time in the making. Quick and easy answers probably won’t actually solve these problems. That’s when therapy is most necessary for people of any age.

When parents ask me how long therapy is going to take, I explain that there are factors that can make therapy take longer, and other factors that can help the process along, and maybe be shorter. Let’s take a look at some of those factors:

How long has the problem been happening? Problems that have lasted a year or more will probably take longer to resolve than one that just began. This isn’t true for every problem, but it can be a helpful guide. For instance, if your child just had a single frightening incident with a neighbor’s dog, and is now too scared to go play at their house, but does not have other anxieties, the child is likely recover from this kind of phobia with short term therapy.

How severe is the problem? By understanding the frequency, intensity, and duration of the problem, and how it may be interfering in your family’s life, we can begin to understand the severity. If a problem comes up every month or two it is probably different from one that interferes with life many times a day. Less severe, less frequent problems can sometimes be resolved in just a few sessions.

How receptive is your child to the idea of therapy? At the initial parent meeting we will share some suggestions about how to talk with kids about starting therapy. Some children welcome therapy and others may be hesitant. Our therapists are warm and welcoming. We will do everything we can to make your child comfortable. Some children may need a few sessions to warm to the idea. We recommend continuing for several sessions to see if it gets better. Other children arrive at the first session already wanting help to take on the problem. We will meet them at their level, wherever they are.

What are the central issues? Children with developmental delays and other special needs will probably need longer term therapy. Children may seem anxious, but that may not be the main issue if they have had traumatic experiences. We cannot assume that every child who seems distractible has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. We conduct assessment sessions and gather as much information as we can. If additional assessment is needed, we will refer for further services. We want to make sure we are working on solving the right problems and getting a full assessment will help us to do so.

How are the parents getting along? Do they generally agree or completely disagree about how to handle parenting issues? Kids do better when the parents are cooperating with one another. Problems can smooth out faster when parents work together. When parents are open to trying new parenting approaches to help their kids and participate actively in the therapy process for their child, therapy is likely to move along more quickly.

Here’s the bottom line:

Don’t let the fact that therapy may take awhile stop you from getting help for your child now. After all, orthodontia takes several years for most children, and we get started as soon as the dentist says it is time. The benefits last a lifetime. The same can be said for therapy. If you have been asking yourself, “Is it time to be getting our child some extra help with this?” the answer is, “Yes.” Give us a call. We are here to help your child and family to start feeling better.

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