This is a question I’m often asked which is almost impossible to answer because there are so many variables involved. The answer depends upon the nature and depth of issues being explored, client goals, the strengths and limitations of clients and how much work is done outside of session. For example, if a client is wanting to address long standing patterns dating years back and their goals are a to undergo significant personal change and they have a lot of fear and insecurity and don’t put much energy into change, then counseling could feasibly take a very long time. If, on the other hand, someone has the same situation but works very hard towards change, they would be in therapy for a much shorter time. Different yet, if a person is addressing a specific relational issue (say an interpersonal issue with a co-worker) that doesn’t involve ingrained and patterned ways of responding and thinking and they put a lot of effort into resolving the issue, they could feasibly be in counseling for a very, very short period of time!
There is often a difference in duration between individual counseling and couples counseling. The course of counseling is usually shorter for couples as compared to individuals. This is because the goals of couples are usually very specific, whereas the goals of many individuals are often broader. Whether seeking individual counseling or couples counseling, my clients are usually the best judge and know when to keep going and when to stop. It’s most always apparent to both of us! I encourage my clients to trust their intuition… they know when they have made significant inroads towards desired change. And, I will see that change echoed throughout session in various ways.