Most people have significant gains from even short-term therapy (between 6 and 10 sessions), however sometimes people seek out longer term therapy because the problems go to their very core. Here we explain what longer term therapy is and how it is different to shorter term therapies.
Long-term therapy as a healing process that consists of the treatment of emotional and developmental disorders that have their roots in childhood and are activated by precipitating life situations or events. The therapeutic structure for treating these disorders generally includes an intense, emotionally complicated, and nonjudgmental therapist–patient relationship. The goal of this structure is to allow the patient to regress into their childhood memories and achieve such a powerful emotional insight into their early cognitions, experiences and defensive behaviors that his repressions are undone. The role of the therapist as expert is generally passive, sometimes empathic, listening that is interrupted only to provide timely and catalytic interpretations intended to provoke emotional sights. In addition, Dr Ben Buchanan may sometimes be more active and employ specific techniques such as breathing procedures or body exercises to evoke buried emotions or provoke insights.
Essentially, childhood is relived in a benign context which facilitates repair. The duration of this process is usually deemed to be one to two years to achieve permanent results. Outcome research studies of long-term therapy verify its effectiveness.
The difference between long and short term therapy.
Short-term therapy (like cognitive behavioural therapy: CBT) is more “result” than healing oriented. For example, short term therapy can be defined as treatment of specific dysfunctional emotional reactions (such as phobias or depression), irrational cognitions (such as rigid and erroneous beliefs), or inappropriate behaviors (such as addictions or kleptomania), all of which, for the long-term therapist, would be considered symptoms of deeper historical, emotional, and characterological disorders. In short-term therapy, the symptoms may be rooted in childhood or may be consequences of stresses in the patient’s current life situation, but the causes of the symptom is unimportant or secondary to its function for the patient in his/her current life. The structure for short-term therapy is similar to that of long-term therapy, that is, the psychologist and the patient meet regularly for 50 minute sessions, but just for a longer timeframe (months/years instead of weeks).
In contrast to the long-term therapy that tends to be passive except for the offering of catalytic interpretations or special exercises, short-term therapy emphasises active intervention in the patient’s symptoms with interpretations, confrontations, behavioral prescriptions, information, and verbal and emotional support. The method is both therapeutic and educational, and the goal is a specific result. Rather than healing the whole person, a psychologist doing short-term therapy aims to reduce the symptom, by therapeutic and educational means, from an otherwise intact system and its replacement by a functional feeling, thought, or behaviour, thus restoring the patient to normal functioning by removing the symptomatic impediment. The time frame for such treatment is usually short, ranging from one session to about a year. Outcome studies usually give short therapy high grades in the short haul but indicate that without long-term follow-up, the symptom sometimes returns.
If you are not sure if long-term or short-term therapy is best for you, you can discuss it during your initial appointment. In general Dr Buchanan will recommended that you have 6 psychotherapy sessions before a decision is made about if long term therapy is most appropriate. Shorter term therapy is appropriate for most individuals and long term therapeutic work would only be embarked upon with full commitment from the patient.