You are probably not surprised to learn the short answer is “depends”.
Still, it makes sense that you’d like to have some kind of ballpark answer. As well, once you know something about what the duration depends on, you’ll have a clearer idea of where you fit in.
It may also help you to know that most people who enter PTSD treatment do some work, and then go off to experience life with their new sense of relief and confidence.
Some time later, they may re-enter trauma therapy because new issues have come up, or they want to deepen the gains they made earlier.
When Therapy Can Be Quick:
Trauma therapy can be very quick if you experienced a single incident trauma, such as a car-accident. For many clients, the impact of these kinds of experiences can resolve in just a few sessions.
Things that complicate the recovery from single incident trauma are lack of supportive people your life or the one-time trauma is connected to other traumas, or if you are a person who reacts strongly to distressing events.
Therapy can also be fast if the trauma you experienced was more than a one-time incident, but relatively minor, and you received effective support immediately after the trauma. Relatively minor traumas can include bullying, divorce, and non-contact sexual abuse by a stranger.
A third way that trauma therapy can be speedy is if the goal you want to reach is limited. For instance, if your only goal through trauma therapy is to sleep better, it is possible to achieve that in a short period of time. Again, this depends on what the trouble with sleep is connected to. If you have trouble sleeping today because your safety depended on staying awake, then until you feel safe today, that trouble will likely remain. If you have trouble sleeping because your mind is racing, that may be faster to curtail.
Recovery can also be speeded up if you have a strong support system today, such as trusted, caring friends or a supportive life-partner. If you have a healthy, positive spirituality, that can also be a powerful aid in your healing journey. As well, if you are able to engage in good self-care, such as eating well, sleeping enough, and spending lots of time in nature, these will help speed up the benefits of therapy.
When Therapy Can Take Longer:
Trauma therapy often takes longer if you experienced multiple instances of maltreatment. This includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and chronic physical or emotional neglect.
If you were very vulnerable when the maltreatment happened, the harm will likely have gone deeper. Consequently, the younger you were, the greater the likelihood that therapy will take longer.
Also, if the person who hurt you was someone you were supposed to be able to trust, the harm is intensified. This includes a parent, step-parent, caregiver, a teacher, or other adult in a position of trust. These kinds of “betrayal traumas” typically take time to recover from.
Similarly, healing can take longer if someone was supposed to protect you and failed to do so. Or, when you disclosed the abuse, the response was poor. If you were blamed or not believed, recovery may take time.
How Long is “Longer”?
In many Aboriginal cultures, there is a custom of cutting off one’s hair when faced with a major loss such as the death of a spouse. Part of the purpose of this ritual is to help mark the time needed to recover. Once the hair has grown back out, the person is more likely able to move on. That length of time is about two years.
There is a similar time-line for deep recovery from significant trauma. These days trauma specialists know how to help people heal as quickly as possible. As a result, people can complete the bulk of their healing journey in a shorter time period.
Although healing is a life-long journey for many, most don’t work with a therapist for extended periods. After a while, you re-gain enough of your own healing resources to go it alone, with the natural supports available to you.
My goal is to help you recover as quickly as is feasible, and to get you to a place where you no longer need a therapist to support you as fast as possible.
Please explore the other great materials on my website. When you are ready, I invite you to call me at 250-515-2123 or use the pop-up box to schedule a free 15-minute consultation. It would be my great pleasure to support you on your healing journey!