When I go to see a doctor for a health issue, I hope to be given the treatment and/or advice that will get me 'cured' as soon as possible. I assume the same goes for many people who go to see a therapist for their emotional and/or mental health problems. They hear the phrase "long term therapy" and are probably immediately put off the idea. Understandably, everybody wants to be 'cured' quickly.
I have always wondered what 'being cured quickly' means. People come to therapy with problems that often have been established many many years ago and have been re-enforced over and over again. Take for example low-self-confidence, chronic depression, alcohol and drug overuse, or dysfunctional relationships. And I haven't even talked about the problems of emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and negative self-perceptions caused by childhood abuse and neglect.
Long term therapy, therapy that takes at least a year, involves on average 40 to 50 hours of therapy time. That is about the equivalent time of 2 full days. Not really that long given years of struggle and re-enforcement.
However, it's important to note that not everyone and everything needs long term therapy. It comes down to understanding what the issue is that needs therapeutic attention and coming to a mutual agreement how to approach the issue. Some issues can easily be addressed short term by learning new strategies, having new insights, and acquiring new skills in a supportive therapist-client relationship.
Other issues require a commitment to a longer term involvement by both therapist and client. Problems that have been chronic for a long time such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, thus issues that involve the building or re-building of a strong, positive sense of self may need much more time and can't be addressed with just learning a few new skills.
The re-establishing of a positive sense of self requires the reparative quality of the therapeutic relationship. I have written about the role mutual recognition as a model for a healing therapeutic relationship has on recovery from sexual abuse. I believe, this model is also relevant in all other situations were a person's SELF needs (re)-building.
A recent German meta-study from October this year confirms my argument for long-term therapy. The researchers identified that people with multiple and chronic mental disorders achieve much better health outcomes through long term psychodynamic therapy. Psychodynamic therapy is an umbrella concept for therapies that involve insight in and interpretation of the client's relationships over his/her life span – including the therapeutic relationship. Following insight and interpretation, new and more useful ways of relating will be explored and encouraged.
You can read more about this research on:
JAMA and Archives Journals (2008, October 6). Longer-duration
Psychotherapy Appears More Beneficial For Treatment Of Complex Mental
Disorders. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 26, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2008/09/080930164454.htm