Millions of people use talk therapy to help them manage their mental health, but not everyone sticks with it. Wondering how long you should stay in therapy is totally normal, and the answer will be different for everyone. Some people start therapy to help deal with a particularly difficult period in their lives, and then stop once that obstacle has been dealt with. Others might stop because they think therapy is too much of a time commitment, compared with the benefits, or too costly. But whatever the reason for stopping may be, it can actually help to continue seeing your therapist, even when you feel "good" about your mental health.
Sometimes, it's helpful to have the support of a mental health professional to help us cope with whatever obstacles life throws at us, mental health related or not, or maintain the progress we made originally in therapy. "It is important to have a space to come and navigate some of these challenges when they arise as well as continue to talk about coping skills to use in many different situations," social worker Mia Rosenberg tells Bustle.
"Much of our conversations and deliberations happen in our mind," NYC-based social worker Katie Krimer tells Bustle. "We tend to overestimate how good we are at talking through our issues in a helpful way, assuming that just because we are thinking a lot, we'll work through any given stress. There are tremendous benefits to verbally communicating the machinations of our mind — especially to an unbiased party — and everyone can use the practice."
Even if you feel emotionally ready to discontinue therapy, continuing your relationship with your therapist can be helpful for therapeutic and logistical reasons alike. "Once the environment changes again, the distress returns. For example, someone enters therapy at the end of a significant relationship. Then, during therapy, the client enters a new relationship and discontinues therapy. All is well until the relationship has issues and the client's former issues return," psychologist and professor Steven Sutlanoff tells Bustle. Continuing therapy in a situation like this can help you address the root patterns that affected the distressing situation in the first place. Further, if you do take a break from therapy but decide to go back, your therapist might not be taking new clients — meaning, you'd have to find a new one, which can cause extra stress.
Women's empowerment coach Elizabeth Su advises thinking about your therapeutic practice as if it were athletic training. "Prevention is just as important for your mental health as it is your physical health," she tells Bustle. "We all know that the more you hit the weights, the stronger you will get. The same goes for your emotional well-being. Your regular trip to the therapist is like your regular trip to the gym. Is it a must? Maybe not. Will it help you build your mental health muscles? Absolutely."
Furthermore, even when you're feeling like you're emotionally well, compared to when you started your therapy, there are still opportunities to grow. It can help to take advantage of feeling well to continue developing insights about yourself that you can continue using if you start to feel down again. "It’s easiest to work on stuff when it’s less severe," licensed mental health counselor Erin Parisi tells Bustle.
However, many people do decide to leave therapy because it isn't affordable, and that's completely valid. If this is the case for you, there are other, more accessible options that can help you take charge of your mental health. Alternatively, you can discuss having less-frequent sessions, or discussing an alternative payment plan with your therapist But, you do have options when it comes to slowing down your therapy, while also keeping your mental health in check. Many therapists recommend tune-up sessions every few weeks or once a month to check in and ensure that you're leading your life to the fullest.
If you are thinking about going back to therapy — even if it is just for a quick tune-up session once every month — there's truly no better time than the present to develop and foster your inner strength. Your mental health deserves the same attention as your physical health, and therapy is just one way to give it the care it needs.