William Benson, Psy.D. | Staff Psychologist:
CBT and DBT are both therapies that we often describe as “time-limited,” meaning the idea is not necessarily to be in these therapies all your life. Instead, you and your therapist set goals together and when you reach those goals you may choose to leave or “graduate” therapy. But time-limited does not mean there’s an expiration date. You don’t have to be done after 10, 12, 16, or 20 sessions. It all depends on whether you’ve reached your goals and, once you have, if you have new goals that CBT or DBT can help you achieve.
Whether you and your therapist agree you’ve graduated or you decide to leave therapy for any reason, it does not mean that you can never come back. For most of us, we fluctuate when it comes to stress, mental health, and emotional well-being. While at one point, perhaps we were thriving, a few weeks, months, or years later we find ourselves struggling again with old or new problems. Many things can cause these fluctuations. For example, we may struggle with significant changes in our environment, be they different people in our lives, a different living situation, a new job, or even traumatic experiences. In fact, you may have experienced several of these kinds of changes due to COVID-19. Over time, we can also simply forget the skills we learned as our old habits take hold again.
Whatever the reason, if you find yourself struggling, you may need a refresher, what we therapists often refer to as “booster sessions” (like a booster dose of a medication or vaccine that you take months after the initial dose to strengthen your body’s immune response). The need for booster sessions is common. However, often people are hesitant. They may not realize they can go back to their therapist, they may feel shame that they have “failed” or “relapsed.” They may remember that CBT or DBT is hard work and feel overwhelmed by the idea of adding to their schedule.
Research shows, though, that these boosters can be very helpful. Often, you can regain confidence and refresh your knowledge of skills even in just a few sessions. In my own practice, I’ve had several clients who expressed that they began doing better even after just a brief phone call with me to discuss scheduling an appointment.
If you’re familiar with DBT, you may know that if you had difficulties with consistently attending therapy sessions and you’ve only recently left, your therapist may need to talk with you first about how you can show a strengthened commitment or you may have to wait for a few months. Reach out to your therapist if you have questions about this.
So no matter how long you were in therapy before, how well you know your skills, whether you and your therapist agreed to end or you decided on your own to take a break, or whether you’ve already come back for booster sessions in the past, you are welcome back. The door is always open for you.