How Many Therapy Sessions For Anxiety?

Woman in therapy who's suffering from anxiety.

Anxiety can severely impact a person’s standard of living, as it prevents them from enjoying many parts of life. Therapy is often necessary to treat anxiety, introducing coping methods that can be turned to in stressful situations.

Anxiety often requires short-term treatment using CBT, or exposure therapy. However, various factors can influence how many therapy sessions are needed to treat anxiety. In this guide, we’ll explore length of treatment in detail.

How Many Sessions To Treat Anxiety With CBT?

CBT, or Cognitive behavior Therapy, is a common therapy for treating anxiety. As a form of talk therapy, CBT can help redirect negative thoughts and feelings, to improve thought patterns and alleviate symptoms.

CBT offers a practical solution to anxiety. It doesn’t delve into a client’s past, but, instead, focuses on current issues. Using CBT offers an in the moment treatment for symptoms of anxiety, and provides a positive outlook moving forward.

Because CBT offers a practical solution for the treatment of anxiety, the results can be seen quickly. A course of CBT treatment typically lasts between 6 and 24 sessions.

Some clients will start to see the benefits after 6 weeks, while others will need longer to see results. Most clients can see the positive effects of CBT after 12 to 16 weeks of treatment.

How Many Sessions To Treat Anxiety With Exposure Therapy?

Exposure therapy is another popular method for treating anxiety. Exposure therapy involves putting clients into situations that trigger their anxiety, helping them control, rather than avoid, their symptoms.

The repeated exposure from this form of therapy offers clients a chance to gain control over the triggering situations.

Exposure therapy can often work quickly, with many clients needing just 6 to 15 sessions to learn to control their response. For exposure therapy to be effective, the client will need to work outside the session, practicing their relaxation methods, and confronting difficult situations.

While exposure therapy can sound scary to clients, it doesn’t start by throwing them in at the deep end. Instead, exposure therapy uses systematic desensitization. This is a step-by-step method, gradually progressing from fairly relaxing situations, to confronting anxiety head on.

Exposure therapy starts with learning techniques to aid relaxation. When confronted with a situation that produces anxiety, a client will turn to these techniques to help them deal with the issue.

Having learned these relaxation methods, the client needs to create a list of situations that trigger anxiety, leading to a final goal. These start off easy, and gradually get harder. The client will work through this list.

Not every item will require a separate session, so the overall length of treatment will depend on how quickly the client can reach their goal.

A woman therapist and a girl in therapy for anxiety.

Short-Term Anxiety Treatment

For many clients, anxiety treatment is used to provide practical coping methods that can be used when in triggering situations. Because the solutions are practical, rather than based on exploring the clients’ history/relationships/etc., treatment is often quicker than other forms of talk therapy.

Clients with mild and moderate anxiety might be able to see the benefits after just 8 to 10 sessions. Severe anxiety might require longer treatment, but many patients find that a few months of regular CBT or exposure therapy can successfully alleviate anxiety.

However, while the results of CBT and exposure therapy can be seen quickly, they require the client to work outside the sessions. As practical solutions, the client must practice their coping methods, and be willing to put themselves in uncomfortable situations.

If they don’t, these treatments might take a long time to work, or never show any real benefits.

Both CBT and exposure therapy require a client to enter situations likely to cause anxiety. This can mean that the early stages of treatment feel like a hindrance, rather than a help. However, as the client begins to master their coping methods, the benefits of the therapy will start to become clear.

Long-Term Anxiety Treatment

Some clients may require a longer course of treatment to deal with their anxiety. This is necessary for particularly severe cases. 

This long-term treatment may be necessary if a client has a coexisting condition. While therapies such as CBT and exposure therapy might have a positive effect, the severity of the condition will still prevent the client from comfortably navigating their anxiety.

These long-term treatments may combine medication with talk therapy. To treat severe anxiety, it’s important to tackle the root causes of the issue. This will prolong the therapy cycle, but it’s necessary to see real results.

Can Therapy Get Rid Of Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal part of life, and it’s important that the client understands no amount of therapy can remove anxiety completely. However, therapy can greatly reduce symptoms of anxiety, with some symptoms potentially being completely eliminated.

What therapy can’t do is ensure that a client will never experience any mild anxiety or worry again. This isn’t a realistic goal, as everyone experiences anxiety from time to time.

But with therapy, a client can find methods to cope with symptoms of anxiety, and prevent anxiety from disrupting their life.

What Factors Affect How Many Therapy Sessions Are Needed For Anxiety?

There are many causes that can affect how many therapy sessions are needed for anxiety. The primary cause is the severity of the disorder. Mild anxiety can potentially be treated within just 6 weeks, while severe anxiety might need ongoing and consistent therapy. 

If the client has coexisting conditions, this can slow down the benefits of therapy for anxiety. And if they require medication, it can take a while to find the right medication and dosage.

Finally, anxiety treatments are only effective if a client is willing to practice coping techniques on their own time. If a client is hesitant to put themselves into stressful situations, it can slow their progress severely. 

Final Thoughts: How Many Therapy Sessions For Anxiety?

CBT and exposure therapy both offer quick and effective anxiety treatment, and can potentially start working within just 8 weeks. Anxiety treatment often takes between 8 and 24 sessions, but some cases will require more long-term treatment.

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