When it comes to treating conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), research has found that around 15 to 20 sessions are usually necessary for 50% of patients to experience an improvement. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective after 10 to 20 sessions. However, if you have experienced multiple cases of abuse, such as physical, sexual, emotional, or chronic physical or emotional neglect, trauma therapy may take longer. The amount of time needed for trauma therapy depends on the preparatory work that needs to be done before addressing the trauma itself.
This can range from a few weeks to 3-4 months. During this time, you and your therapist will work together to ensure that you have the skills necessary to work on trauma, understand PTSD, and feel safe before beginning the therapy. The cognitive processing therapy program usually lasts 12 weeks, so the CPT plus preparatory work will likely take 3.5 to 7 months. It is important to start with a therapist who understands traumatic work and can guide you through it safely.
This is hard work and it is essential that it is done in a secure and comfortable environment with an experienced and well-trained therapist. Programs such as STAIR, ACT, and DBT can help you prepare for more intensive trauma therapy. If you decide to do it in residential treatment, you will likely be assigned to a therapist who specializes in traumatology and can help you safely navigate the process. The amount of time needed for trauma therapy varies from person to person, depending on their history and life experience.
The goal of therapy is to help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings about trauma and how they are related. While healing is a lifelong journey for many, most people do not need to work with a therapist for extended periods of time. Every session must be done with care and kindness, which requires a lot of nuance on the part of the therapist. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) includes the idea that we must accept the reality of the trauma (instead of trying to act as if it never happened) and allow ourselves to feel the associated emotions (instead of ignoring painful feelings) as we move forward with our lives in the present.
Despite the difficulties of childhood trauma, mental health professionals have learned a great deal about how to effectively and compassionately deal with it. Since child trauma work can cause feelings of shame and self-harm, the therapist will only guide you to the next phase of treatment when they are sure that you are prepared because their primary goal is always your safety.