When brief, time-limited therapy might be enough

Certain issues can be easily treated with short-term, goal-specific therapy

Time-limited therapy, also known as short-term or brief therapy, is a valuable form of therapy and can improve people’s lives.  Arranged within a set period of time, usually up to ten sessions, this type of therapy can be more beneficial to some clients in certain circumstances than longer-term counselling.

Modern life can cause an onset of personal distress with people sometimes experiencing depression, stress, anxiety and other issues often because of relationships, work or family, and these can be further exacerbated by technology, environmental factors and social demands.

In some cases, a person may have one or two specific problems that they want to resolve and this is where time-limited therapy can assist.  Short-term therapy works for couples as well as individuals and can address a range of issues such as stress, relationship problems, low self-esteem, anxiety and work or family issues. It can also help those who are going through transitions in their life or experiencing a personal crisis and finding it hard to cope.

What’s the difference between short-term and longer-term therapy

Time-limited therapy has a much tighter focus and targets a specific problem or psychological issue that is current and in the `here and now’.  This type of therapy has focused goals and is a collaborative process between therapist and client. It is likely to involve some homework assignments for the client to research and practice between sessions.

Since it is highly focused with specific goals to work towards, clients will come to understand more clearly their difficulties, the primary reasons for these difficulties and the changes that need to occur.

Short-term therapy is structured to achieve the best outcome in a short timescale. A psychotherapist will discuss and assess the problem in partnership with their client and identify and define the specific issue early on in counselling treatment. From here, initial insights and treatment strategies can be put in place to find a solution and make significant progress using practical steps for positive change. Clear goals are established within an agreed number of counselling sessions — complete with the client’s involvement and autonomy to make their own choices. Treatment can use a variety of psychotherapy techniques and tools to assist the process.

As with longer-term therapy, a mutually beneficial therapeutic alliance between psychotherapist and client will build a trusting and collaborative relationship from the outset, enabling the client to feel heard and acknowledged. Throughout the therapy, progress reviews will monitor the changes that are being made and identify where more or less focus can be applied using the most effective therapy techniques.

The client will want to resolve problems and make positive changes as quickly as possible, and short-term counselling can help a client feel empowered to focus and remain committed to the therapy.  This sense of achievable attainment in a short space of time can motivate and give hope to a client to move towards changes in their thoughts, feelings and actions in order to feel better and improve their situation more quickly.

During time-limited therapy where the attention is often on capabilities and strengths rather than weaknesses and shortcomings, a client will take an active part in their therapy and feel responsible for improvements to their life. Treatment can include reframing the problem, focusing on and appreciating strengths and drawing on past positive experiences and successes to build confidence, overcome issues and proactively move forwards.

A range of effective counselling methods can be explored and used for short-term therapy including highly personalised person-centred counselling, integrative psychotherapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy  and cognitive behavioural therapy depending on what a client’s difficulties are.

Short-term counselling is a good way to see if counselling is for you

Short-term therapy can also be a good introduction to the psychotherapy process. If you are unsure or doubtful whether therapy is for you and can help with a specific problem, it’s a good way to try therapy rather than not seek or receive any support at all. We can help and advise you on taking the first steps into therapy, and it could be that time-limited therapy is the solution for making the improvements you want.

People enter time-limited counselling with specific goals in mind and are satisfied and relieved when their difficulties are resolved, so it is worth thinking about your own preferences and whether this approach could help you.  Other factors are a person’s character, disposition and outlook and if they are goal orientated and motivated by step-by-step achievements in order to make a lasting difference.

Counselling is a dynamic and interactive process, so there will be instances when a client enters short-term therapy and during the process becomes more aware of deeper issues or patterns of thoughts and behaviours that are connected to current issues. Clients may decide with their therapist that they would benefit from long-term therapy and the opportunity for further exploration and self-discovery to address underlying problems.

Short-term therapy will not resolve deep-rooted, more serious issues such as addiction, compulsive or eating disorders, abuse or personality disorders. These types of issues will need to be addressed through long-term professional psychotherapy.

You can find out more about short-term therapy, personal therapy and couples therapy. If you have any questions about whether short-term or longer term therapy is suitable, please contact us.

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