Therapy does not necessary take years to work.

It’s unfortunate that so many people believe that requires extremely long periods of time to work—I believe this misleading notion unfortunately keeps people who could really benefit from treatment from seeking help. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, the research that has shown Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is effective is typically based on only 10-20 sessions of structured CBT.

Short-term treatment is not for everyone. Of course, some complex problems require long-term treatment in order for improvement to occur. However, I believe that most people can benefit from short-term treatment. So during my first session with a new client I always discuss whether short-term therapy is the right approach, or if we  would be better doing traditional, unstructured therapy. The main difference between these two forms of treatment (other than the length of time involved) is the extent to which the treatment is structured. Structured treatment allows us to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time.

The following table highlights some of the key differences between structured and unstructured therapy. Also keep in mind that you are not locked into this choice. If after completing a short-term treatment you would like to expand your goals to continue you can.  If you do choose unstructured therapy, we will likely still apply many same powerful tools I use for short-term treatment.    


Short-Term/Structured Therapy

  • Every session has a clear stated agenda.

  • Short-term/Structured treatment is ideal for most types of depression, anxiety, and lack of motivation. 

  • About 30 minutes of practice a day outside the session is recommended.
  • Is expected to end after a specified length of time such as 14 sessions (Although if you would like to extend the treatment with expanded goals or switch to unstructured treatment you may).

  • Sessions are a mixture of instruction and working together achieve specific goals.
  • The psychologist will provide specific strategies and coping skills. You will work with the psychologist to create some tools such as your own Motivational Statement, Coping Plan, and Helpful Thought Statements.

  • The session may or may not use the week’s events as an opportunity to illustrate the content. 

Unstructured Therapy

  • Each session can deal with whatever topic you and your therapist deem important.
  • May be necessary for more complex problems that required more detailed strategies such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, PTSD, relationship problems, or child-rearing difficulties.
  • May or may not have assignments outside the session.  

  • Is generally open-ended and, in a small portion of cases, lasts several years.

  • While this varies greatly from therapist to therapist, there may be sessions where you will do most of the talking. 

  • While this varies greatly, often the therapist will be non-directive and offer a minimum of direct advice. Sometimes the therapist will seek to guide your as you arrive at your own solutions. Other times, the therapist will instruct and provide skills as needed.    
  • Often people wind up spending a large portion of their time discussing the events of the previous week. The therapist will attempt use these problems as an opportunity to address larger patterns in the client’s life.  

The reason I am able to do short-term therapy is because I draw on the methods of Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy.  Learn more about Cognitive Behavioral treatments here.