How Long Will
Online Therapy Last?

John Cornelison, LPC

In my experience, when people begin online therapy, they are very interested in when it will end and how that will take place.  

Some people have the misconception that counseling is a never-ending process and are suspicious that once they start, their therapist will keep them coming back indefinitely.  

It is true that some clients voluntarily continue in counseling for years.  But in my experience, the vast majority attend therapy until their issues resolve to a comfortable level.

No guarantees can ever be offered about the length of therapy or its rate of success.  

What can be said is that the client and the therapist should work closely together to monitor all progress, and have regular conversations about whether or not therapy should continue.  Quality therapy is collaboration between the counselor and the client.

Because there are so many variables that influence the duration of counseling, it is nearly impossible to give a specific length of time with much accuracy. 

Variables may include whether your issues are:

  • Short-term (stress from a job change)
  • Long-term (a parent with Alzheimer's Disease)
  • Ever-changing (parenting after a divorce)
  • Relatively Static (chronic depression)

After the first or second session, I will tell you how I view your case at that point, and how I think we should proceed with your online counseling. 

The key here is that my recommendations are just that - recommendations.  You may choose to follow them to the letter or propose a different course. 

In most cases, we will be able to design a treatment plan for your care that accommodates industry standard best practices, and is in line with your abilities in terms of time and cost.   In the very few cases where this is not possible, I will make a referral to another provider who may be a better match for your needs and desires.

I always prefer, whenever practical, to have weekly sessions for the first month or so.  This helps us establish momentum in your care.  Weekly visits during this time also help us quickly begin a comfortable working relationship, and fill your "tool box" so you feel more in control of the issues that brought you to counseling.

Most clients see me once a week for a few months.  After that, we may meet less often (bi-weekly or every few weeks) for several more months. 

In the final stages, we may visit monthly, quarterly, or semiannually.  Your online therapy then usually comes to a mutually agreeable end, or steps down to a maintenance phase. 

Maintenance is generally an agreed upon annual visit for what many clients call a "Check Up from the Neck Up."  Having a maintenance appointment on the books may provide a sense of comfort.  It feels good to know you have a definite time and date when you can process some of the challenges and successes that have accumulated during the year.

Ending Your Online Therapy

Therapy generally ends in one of two ways - voluntary termination or non-voluntary discharge. 

Voluntary termination is by far the most common way treatment ends at eCounseling Service, LLC.  The word termination has a bit of a negative charge, so I like to think of it as finishing or completing. 

These words are more positive in nature and are also more descriptive of voluntary termination.  

Completing your therapy can be a valuable part of the counseling process, but should not be done casually.  Either client or counselor may decide to end sessions if it is in the client's best interest.

If it is the client's choice to finish therapy, I request (but do not require) one last session for collaborative review.  In this completion session, we will review our goals, the work we have done, any future work that needs to be done, and choices that have been made.

Non-voluntary discharge from online therapy may be necessary under extreme circumstances. 

Some examples of extreme circumstances are when the client:

  • Threatens physical violence
  • Is verbally abusive
  • Harasses (in person or in cyberspace)
  • Engages in illegal acts during sessions
  • Refuses to comply with stipulated program rules
  • Refuses to comply with treatment recommendations
  • Does not make payments or payment arrangements in a timely manner

Clients are notified of non-voluntary discharge by secure email or letter.  A client is welcome to appeal my decision through written correspondence or a request to re-apply for services at a later date.

Learn about my approach to online counseling.

Find out more about the type of clients I work with.