When people first book in to see a psychologist, they may be recommended to book several appointments ahead of time to ensure that they can secure a regular appointment slot. But how often should you book in? Is it better to attend twice per week, weekly, fortnightly, or monthly?
How frequently someone books in with their psychologist will differ for each person, and it may change throughout the course of the treatment. This can depend on each person’s individual needs and circumstances, with people often considering how much time they can take off work, finances, or other responsibilities and commitments.
Although these are important elements to consider to ensure that you can commit to a course of treatment that is suitable for you, another important consideration is what is likely to provide you with the best therapeutic outcomes.
What does the research say?
Previous studies have found that clients who attend more regularly (particularly at the beginning of their treatment) have the greatest improvements (Bruijniks et al., 2020; Tiemans et al., 2019). Tiemans et al. (2019) recommend attending for a minimum of one session per week based on their findings, particularly during the first three months of therapy.
Erekson et al. (2015) reported that clinically significant gains were achieved faster for those attending weekly sessions compared with fortnightly sessions. This was for a sample of university students attending therapy for adjustment, anxiety, or depression related problems.
If you are attending for depression, the research (Bruijniks et al., 2015) shows that twice weekly sessions are more effective than weekly sessions particularly for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT).
Therefore, based on this research we initially recommend booking 2 sessions per week for the best therapeutic outcomes.
What if I am coming for trauma?
If you are receiving Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for trauma or PTSD, attending twice per week is highly recommended. A study has found that attending CPT sessions more frequently with fewer gaps between each appointment leads to significantly greater PTSD symptom reduction (Gutner et al., 2016). Attending twice per week also allows you to complete the entire 12-sessions of treatment in less than two months. If you cannot attend twice a week, CPT requires at least once a week attendance for best outcomes.
Ultimately, how often you should see your psychologist is something that should be discussed with your psychologist during your first session and decided on together based on a combination of (1) what is likely to be the most effective based on the evidence, and (2) what is most suitable for you based on your individual circumstances.
You can call our Admin team on 03 9077 0122 to book an appointment or book online via our portal.
Bruijniks, S. J., Bosmans, J., Peeters, F. P., Hollon, S. D., van Oppen, P., van den Boogaard, M., Dingemanse, P., Cuijpers, P., Arntz, A., Franx, G., & Huibers, M. J. (2015). Frequency and change mechanisms of psychotherapy among depressed patients: study protocol for a multicenter randomized trial comparing twice-weekly versus once-weekly sessions of CBT and IPT. BMC psychiatry, 15, 137. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-015-0532-8
Bruijniks, S. J. E., Lemmens, L. H. J. M., Hollon, S. D., Peeters, F. P. M. L., Cuijpers, P., Arntz, A., Dingemanse, P., Willems, L., van Oppen, P., Twisk, J. W. R., van den Boogaard, M., Spijker, J., Bosmans, J., & Huibers, M. J. H. (2020). The effects of once- versus twice-weekly sessions on psychotherapy outcomes in depressed patients. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 216(4), 222–230. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.2019.265
Erekson, D. M., Lambert, M. J., & Eggett, D. L. (2015). The relationship between session frequency and psychotherapy outcome in a naturalistic setting. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 83(6), 1097–1107. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0039774
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Gutner, C. A., Suvak, M. K., Sloan, D. M., & Resick, P. A. (2016). Does timing matter? Examining the impact of session timing on outcome. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 84(12), 1108–1115. https://doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000120
Hunot, V., Churchill, R., Teixeira, V., & Lima, M. S. de. (2007). Psychological therapies for generalised anxiety disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 1. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD001848.pub4
Ijaz, S., Davies, P., Williams, C. J., Kessler, D., Lewis, G., & Wiles, N. (2018). Psychological therapies for treatment‐resistant depression in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 5. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD010558.pub2
Kazantzis, N., Dattilio, F. M., & Dobson, K. S. (2017). The therapeutic relationship in cognitive-behavioral therapy: A clinician’s guide (pp. xvi, 288). Guilford Press.
Tiemens, B., Kloos, M., Spijker, J., Ingenhoven, T., Kampman, M., & Hendriks, G. (2019). Lower versus higher frequency of sessions in starting outpatient mental health care and the risk of a chronic course: A naturalistic cohort study. BMC Psychiatry 19, 228. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-019-2214-4