Days of Healing: Short-term Intensive Therapy

I use an intensive short-term format with sessions of 2 or 3 hours, a full day or multiple days, and there are advantages and disadvantages to this format.

In traditional psychotherapy practice, sessions are 45-60 minutes, usually every week or every other week. Clients look forward to an ongoing, compassionate, supportive presence in their lives. Clients have a chance between sessions to practice new skills learned and to return to the therapist regularly for additional help. Clients are able to build a trusting relationship over time.

While psychodynamic and supportive therapy depend on an ongoing relationship, and cognitive behavioral therapy requires continuing homework practice, EMDR is focused on processing and resolving painful life experiences that are getting in your way now. There is no homework, and processing can effectively be condensed into longer sessions.

45-60 minute sessions often do not provide sufficient time to process traumatic material, requiring closing down a session before the painful material is resolved and coming back next time and continuing. Therefore, many EMDR clinicians and their clients prefer 75 or 90-minute sessions.

Many clients have found, though, that it is difficult to transition between the intensity of processing sessions and their daily life. It can be hard to go back to work after processing trauma or other painful life experiences, and it can be hard to concentrate on self-healing if you are also thinking about everything else you soon have to do. Clients also would like the relief sooner rather than later. Why suffer for weeks or months if you can feel better in hours or days?

The short-term intensive format offers 2 or 3-hour sessions, full day 6-hour sessions and multiple days sessions allowing clients to focus intensively on themselves, and complete a chunk of healing. Clients may decide they only need one session, they may meet weekly, or they may decide to return weeks, months or years later to do more work.

Let’s look at the pros and cons.

The pros are:

The cons:

Intensive Therapy is especially effective for resolving specific trauma, like a car accident, rape, a natural disaster; preparing for an upcoming event like a presentation or test, a job change, a stressful family gathering, a medical procedure; or just feeling stuck. It can also be very useful for people with a long history of trauma, depression, or relationship difficulties if they have adequate ongoing support. If you want or need ongoing support, feedback or problem-solving help, choosing weekly therapy would be a good idea. Regular ongoing therapy would also be a good choice if you have a great deal of chaos or instability in your life or if you know or suspect that you regularly dissociate. For many people who have a regular therapist, intensive trauma-healing can be a very effective supplement, allowing them to address specific issues in a focused way while maintaining ongoing support.

If you have any questions, please call me at 818-522-3952.

Linda Goodman Pillsbury, LCSW • 818-522-3952

California License# LCS 24069