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12 Weeks to Feeling Better: Try Psychotherapy Today

By John M. Grohol, PsyD
Founder & Editor-in-Chief

It’s time for psychotherapy to stop beating around in the bushes and get a new marketing campaign going for itself. It’s time for organizations like our own, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association and others to join together and have people understand a simple, basic message — 12 weeks is all most people need to start feeling better when faced with a mental health issue.

Psychotherapy still gets a bad rap because of a basic misunderstanding of the process it entails, or prejudice around thinking that if you need to see a therapist, something’s really wrong with you.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Just like the endless pharmaceutical commercials on TV for antidepressants and ADHD medications, psychotherapy could be reminding people that it’s not like you’re making a forever-commitment to Freudian analysis. It’s simply 12 weeks to feeling better.

In any effective marketing message, you have to make the message clear and simple. So of course I realize that 12 weeks worth of psychotherapy isn’t appropriate for everyone; not everyone is going to be feeling better after 12 weeks. But based upon decades’ worth of research into psychotherapy, I believe it’s a legitimate claim to make that most people will experience significant symptom relief after just 12 weeks of psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy begins to work immediately, unlike antidepressants and many other medications.

Truth is, psychotherapy usually starts helping people immediately — even after the first session. People often report a sense of relief and of “getting it off my chest” after talking to a therapist during that first session. In some instances, it can even be a cathartic experience.

One of the challenges that psychotherapy still faces is that who you choose as your therapist is important — vitally important. Unlike in prescribing an antidepressant, finding the right professional to work with can be the difference between having a great psychotherapy outcome, versus a poor one. Psychology hasn’t really come up with a reliable way for you to find the “right” psychotherapist for you — it’s still a matter of trial and error. And that’s frustrating and time-consuming, especially since a lot of people don’t feel comfortable leaving a therapist once they’ve told their story. It’s too much trouble, too much of a hassle.

But not only will most people feel better in 12 weeks and start feeling better almost immediately, many people will also be effectively “cured” of the problem they’ve come for help with. There is a wealth of research demonstrating the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), for instance, in helping people with even moderate depression in about 12 weeks.

While it’s true that most antidepressants will begin working around 6 weeks, antidepressants rarely offer anything more than symptom relief. While symptom relief is important, in many people it may not be sufficient for a person to really feel better. The depression might still be there, it’s just far more tolerable and manageable on a day-to-day level.

Psychotherapy offers something more. Not just symptom relief, but relief from the depression over the long-term.

So while it may seem like a stretch to compete with the big guys in advertising and marketing a simple treatment message, I’m going to give it a shot. 12 weeks to feeling better — give psychotherapy a try today.


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