How long does it take before counselling starts to “work”?

How much time will you need to invest in counselling before you notice change?

Knowing how much time you may need to invest before noticeable change occurs can help gauge your expectations for therapy. This can help build self-compassion as you learn to become patient with yourself in the process.

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The amount of sessions required to experience significant change varies and depends on factors like your history and social support system, session frequency and your goal. It's important to set a clearly defined goal so you know when change has taken place.

How Long Does it Take for Change to Happen?

The amount of time required for change to happen can vary from a few months, to 6 months or longer. Acute issues like general stress management often require fewer treatment sessions than chronic conditions like lifelong mood problems. Different styles of therapy also take varying lengths of time. Significant change as a result of short term therapy is also possible, but less common.

What the Research Says

Research indicates that people experience significant change or recovery with increasing treatment length. Therefore, it's important that you have a sufficient amount of treatment length and reasonable expectations before deciding if counselling isn't working.

According to, 50% of people reported recovery after 15 to 20 sessions. For people who have co-occurring conditions or certain personality difficulties, treatments of 12-18 months may be required before significant change occurs. Individuals with chronic problems may require extensive therapy, e.g., supportive therapy to avoid psychiatric rehospitalization, however this represents a minority of cases.

What to Expect

Change is a process. It takes time, effort and commitment. It is normal to feel frustrated when change happens slower than you expect or prefer. Talking to your counsellor about the change process can help them understand your experience. It may lead to important insights along your journey of change.

Are you ready to explore change?

Book your counselling session or consultation appointment.