Myth Madness: ‘Therapy Is Endless and Will Cost a Fortune’

man counting pennies

Myth No. 7: “Therapy is endless and will cost a fortune.”

Reality: Although we are all works in progress and we may go through periods when we need the guidance of a therapist, therapy is usually not endless. Indeed, there are some folks who wind up staying in therapy for decades. Yes, sometimes this is a result of the therapist encouraging or fostering dependency, and sometimes it’s simply because the person in therapy has decades of work to do to undo the effects of the past. A 2010 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry concluded that nearly half of people in therapy use three to 10 sessions. One in nine has more than 20 sessions.

I would venture to say that many people don’t stay in therapy long enough. Many run away when they begin to feel too vulnerable, and others have their therapy prematurely terminated by the therapist before doing the deeper work. Some therapy approaches follow a cookie-cutter, time-limited approach and put way too much emphasis on demonstrating that therapy can be completed within a certain time period, which probably puts these approaches in the favor of insurance companies, which like standardized, time-limited benefits for financial reasons.

Of course, many people are also drawn to short-term therapy for financial reasons. And no doubt therapy is expensive. The average hour-long session varies from about $100 to $150, but you should be getting your money’s worth if you’re seeing progress and making the changes you want to make.

For me, therapy was a personal investment. I spent five years doing my own therapy once per week during a time in my life when I couldn’t afford it. There was pain from my past that I knew I needed to address, and for me it warranted using my credit cards and going into debt. Now, I’m not encouraging you to do the same—that’s a decision only you can make. But my view is that good therapy is worth the time and money. Therapy should take as long as it needs to take, and I’d argue that there is greater cost for not doing the inner work to improve the quality of your life. When you consider how your well-being—or lack of it—will impact your relationships, health, career success, and overall life satisfaction, therapy is an investment clearly worth making.

Editor’s note: For more articles examining common myths and fears surrounding psychotherapy, please click here.


Alpert, Jonathan. (2012, April 21). In Therapy Forever? Enough Already. The New York Times. Retrieved from

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  • Geoff

    October 14th, 2013 at 3:43 AM

    Yeah, I think that this is one of those things that you definitely have to think about what kind of return on your investment you will be getting, and for most of us, that is pretty substantial.
    You say that you made that choice even at a time in your life when you really didn’t have two pennies to rub together, much less to invest in therapy.
    But something inside of you told you that you needed it so you did it.
    This is sometimes one of the hard choices that you will have to make, a sacrifice so that you can get your life back.
    Isn’t that worth giving up a few meals and movies out to get something that substantial back?

  • marco Y

    October 14th, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    Very valid concerns, particularly about the money, because when you already live paycheck to paycheck like I do, there is little left over at the end of the month for something like this.

    I get it that this could be seen as something preventive and an investment in me and whatnot, but sometimes you gotta pay the rent and power too, and those things have to take priority.

  • Justin

    October 15th, 2013 at 3:58 AM

    so there isn’t going to be a quick fix
    but I don’t really find myself drawn to someone who would promise that in the first place
    you didn’t get messsed up overnight, to the point that you needed therapy overnight, so why should we think that we are going to be “fixed” overnight either?

  • Jeremy d

    October 16th, 2013 at 1:41 AM

    Don’t we all love a quick fix and instant results? yes we do! but when it comes to therapy it is not possible for a quick fix. but that does NOT mean it is going to be endless either. although a fixed time period or number of sessions could be hard to pinpoint, it could be done within a particular time frame if you follow your therapist’s advice. and when its not endless its not going to cost a fortune either. so there you go, myth busted.

  • donna

    October 16th, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Just as a little reference point- I don’t know how good they are but I have found that in most communities there are programs that offer therapy programs for little or even no charge. Some work on a sliding scale based on your income and some even are free. You might have to do a little digging to find them but they are out there and if money is a concern then I definitely wouldn’t stop looking until I found something like that. You could also use resources of any church or faith based organization that you are affiliated with. This may or may not be the answer for you but it could be a start in the right direction especially if your finances have you concerned.

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