My last session with a therapist was months ago. It wasn’t supposed to be months ago— at the end of our last session, I told him my schedule was tight the following week and he said, “Well, give me a call when you want to schedule something.” Even though I’m a therapist myself and I know the positive impact therapy has on my anxiety and depression, I tend to dread therapy. Over the past several weeks, I’ve often thought about reaching out to him, but I just haven’t. Trying to identify an hour in my family’s schedule where I can slip away for my own therapy… and then hoping that time would also work for my therapist… spending most of the session catching him up on what has changed in my life since we last spoke… and then of course paying the session fee… there’s certainly more than one hurdle that comes up for me when therapy scheduling is left open-ended.
Does any of this sound familiar?
At Take Root Therapy, we do recommend seeing your therapist on a weekly basis, or at least finding a time that will work for you most weeks. It’s something we get asked about quite frequently. And we understand—therapy takes a lot out of you (emotionally and financially). So why is it a big deal to go regularly? Wouldn’t it be less stressful to go less often?
First off, evidence-based research studies generally show an association between weekly psychotherapy sessions and positive outcomes for clients. This appears to be especially important in the first stage of therapy, when you’re building rapport with your therapist and beginning to get to the core of things.
But what might that look like for you? In addition to the body of research on what makes therapy most effective, there are real-world applications of why weekly sessions make a difference in therapy. Here are five reasons (in no particular order) why weekly therapy sessions may be a way for you to honor yourself and your healing process, and to set yourself up for the best possible outcome in therapy.
I don’t know about you, but as an adult, whenever I’ve had to reach out to a therapist to schedule a first appointment it has been hard. It was hard to admit that I needed some support, and it was hard carving the time out of my week to go. Now imagine having to start that process again and again every time you have a bad week!
The benefit of committing to weekly sessions right off the bat is to set the therapeutic process in motion one time. Committing to weekly sessions means you reach out once, establish a weekly system in place to support you, until you 1. reach out again to your therapist to let them know you’ve gotten what you came for from therapy, or 2. discuss your gains with your therapist and mutually agree you’re ready to come in less regularly (or graduate entirely). We know from personal experience as clients ourselves that the second way tends to be easier to maintain.
2. Emotional consistency.
Therapy is hard work, and a therapy session might uncover deeply-seated emotions and vulnerabilities, as well as new insights. A skilled clinician will help you “close” the session emotionally each week. You will likely process and integrate what you’ve learned over the course of the week between sessions. Weekly sessions allow you, emotionally and mentally, to prepare for each session appropriately, and to have enough time to process between sessions. Seeing your therapist at the same time each week while you are in the initial stage of treatment can also allow you to develop soothing rituals before and after therapy sessions, if possible (i.e. lighting a candle, making tea, making a list of things you want to talk about in session, and/or doing homework your therapist has assigned if applicable).
3. Building Trust.
Weekly sessions allow you to develop your relationship with your therapist. It can be really difficult to share the most vulnerable parts of yourself with a complete stranger (which all therapists and clients are at first!). In order for therapy to be effective, you will likely establish trust in and comfort around your therapist. We believe that it’s your therapist’s job to make you feel emotionally safe, and ideally, to put you at ease when you are in session with them. However, it’s much easier for your therapist to foster this relationship with you and hold this space for you when you see them on a regular basis. The last thing you want in session is a sense of formality, awkwardness, or feeling overexposed. Dedicating weekly time for you and your therapist to get to know each other will help you open up at a pace that feels comfortable for you and to feel like you’re talking to someone you really trust.
Ideally, within the first couple of sessions, you and your therapist will have identified goals you have for treatment. Having weekly sessions helps you and your therapist stay oriented on those specific goals, and to pick up where you left off the week before.
Having weekly sessions established also allows surprising opportunities for insight, and accountability in both directions. If you find yourself cancelling frequently, for example, your therapist can ask you why. It can create an opportunity for you to tell them that you’re actually not feeling like their approach is working for you (therefore holding your therapist accountable) or you may realize something like your anxiety about therapy is causing you to cancel (therefore holding you accountable).
Although individual needs vary, it’s safe to say most folks reach out to a therapist because they want to feel better in some capacity. Once their symptoms have improved, or they feel equipped with the right mental health tools that they came to us for, most clients enter a “maintenance” phase, where they see us twice a month. At this point, many folks also choose to “terminate” therapy (with the understanding that their therapist always has an open door for them if they want to return for any reason in the future).
While some clients enjoy having a long-term therapist (and have the means to pay for it), we understand that many clients, whether by desire or necessity, are coming in for a temporary course of treatment. By default, our goal is to support you, empower you, and get you the tools that you need. Weekly sessions allow us to balance a steady, emotionally safe pace with immediate attention to help you feel more balanced and empowered. In other words, seeing you on a weekly basis allows us to co-create a therapeutic experience with you that’s as positive and impactful as possible.
These five reasons scratch the surface of why we feel strongly about going to therapy on a weekly basis, at least for the first phase of treatment. Going to therapy is hard; going to therapy weekly can make it a little easier (even though it’s still hard work!).
I would be remiss to not acknowledge the broken nature of healthcare in America and the lack of accessibility to weekly mental health services for many people who need them. In many healthcare systems and agencies, seeing a therapist weekly simply isn’t on the table, even for folks with insurance (due to long waiting lists, overburdened therapist schedules, or referral constraints).
At Take Root Therapy, not accepting insurance and charging a premium fee allows us to offer same-week availability and consistent, flexible scheduling for clients, while providing our therapists with a healthy work-life balance. All of us have seen multiple therapists in our lifetimes, and we know how to provide the highest quality care. However, we know not everyone can afford to pay our fee on a weekly basis. Although it may seem hard to find, weekly therapy in Los Angeles that fits your budget does exist. We are always happy to assist you in finding the best fit for weekly therapy in your budget, even if it’s not with us.
In crisis? Text HOME to 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Lower versus higher frequency of sessions in starting outpatient mental health care
Standard versus extended cognitive behavioral therapy for social anxiety disorder
Randomized Trial of Weekly, Twice-Monthly, and Monthly Interpersonal Psychotherapy as Maintenance Treatment for Women with Recurrent Depression
Scheduled Healing: The Relationship Between Session Frequency and Psychotherapy Outcome in a Naturalistic Setting
Therapeutic Alliance and Outcome of Psychotherapy