Most of my clients ask this question immediately after the first session. Unless a client is in crisis, there is no right or wrong answer. Frequent sessions are necessary to prevent clients from harming themselves or others. If a client is suicidal, I meet with them as often as needed to keep them safe—usually at least 2x/week.
But what if you are not in crisis? How often then? I prefer to meet 1x/week or every other week. The answer becomes increasingly specific to you, so I cannot answer this question for you. But consider the following in making your decision:
- How much work are you able to do in-between sessions? If you are highly motivated and get a lot done quickly, you will be ready for another session more quickly.
- How quickly do you want to see results? Typically, the more frequently we meet, the faster you will make progress.
- What financial resources do you have to invest in your emotional health?
- One of the first goals of counseling is establishing a working relationship. Accomplishing this usually requires meeting somewhat frequently. For example, starting off meeting 1x/month will bring some results, however, building a helpful relationship will take several sessions to gain momentum. We need time to get to know each other. Can you wait 3 months to begin to see the results you want?
- How serious are your concerns? If you have a mild issue, meeting 1x/month might be appropriate. Serious concerns can take years to process. For moderate to severe concerns, the invaluable benefits of counseling improve the more we are familiar with each other. Building a relationship takes time.
- Some clients prefer scheduling two hours at a time to maximize the amount of time spent focusing intently on their concerns. In every session there is a warm up, cool down, and core working time.
Sometimes counseling is like a “job” because facing ourselves and making changes is hard work. We don’t always want to do our job, but we do it anyway because we appreciate the payoff. Likewise, in counseling, we don’t always want to take a hard look at ourselves, but we do it anyway because we appreciate better emotional health.
Counseling will lack progress to the degree a client is not coming because of their own free choice. Being comfortable with the frequency of meetings is important. For counseling to be successful a client should give serious consideration to what they want to get from it. If a client doesn’t know their specific goals, then counseling should focus on defining them.
The perfect goal becomes defining the goals. The client must become in touch on some level with their reasons for attending counseling. This might be only a gut feeling at first. Eventually, as awareness builds, clients are able to articulate the reasons.
Who is responsible for the results of the counseling? How much is the counselor responsible, how much is the client responsible, and how much is God responsible?
When a client attends counseling and ceases to make progress, often this is a result of a misunderstanding of how counseling works. The counselor plays an important role in bringing care, structure, and expert knowledge to the client. But even the best counselor will run out of novel ideas quickly. Without the client’s active participation, a counselor cannot motivate a client to achieve results.
The best counseling sessions happen when a client finds both motivation for change, and a clear picture of the desired outcome. Motivation to do the work of counseling is essential to reaping the benefits of counseling. A client must work actively in-between counseling sessions on what is discovered in each session to see progress toward goals.
God is ultimately the author of our lives, but He made us so that we have a responsibility in achieving growth.