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What Is Intensive Psychotherapy?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Intensive psychotherapy is a goal-oriented approach to therapy for patients with specific issues they want to address. It may be short term, lasting one to two months, although it can extend for a longer period if the patient would benefit. People with mental illness may find intensive therapy helpful for managing their conditions, and it can also be useful for people with particular problems in their lives who want counseling. Therapists offering this type of therapy may integrate a number of approaches. Clients can find it helpful to read information about several therapy practices to see which might be most useful for them before approaching a counselor.

Sessions of intensive psychotherapy typically occur several times a week, and may be offered daily. The therapist and client discuss the reasons for starting therapy and develop some goals at the outset. In a series of sessions, the client is encouraged to talk about issues, and may be pushed to probe them deeply. Rather than allowing therapy to unfold slowly over time, allowing topics to float to the surface, the therapist may take a more active role to guide the client.

Specific interventions can come up in intensive psychotherapy. This differs from the more passive model seen with some forms of counseling and therapy, where clients may be encouraged to engage in inward examination. The goals of the therapy are kept in mind and the patient may receive targeted advice on resolving them. For example, someone having problems with a boss might work with the therapist on developing a script for approaching the boss to talk about an issue.

Patients can attend individual or group intensive psychotherapy in both inpatient and outpatient settings. A mental health crisis may require hospitalization for temporary intensive therapy, followed by outpatient visits to help the patient adjust. Medications can also be part of treatment; a patient with bipolar depression, for example, might take mood stabilizers and attend therapy to address the depression.

As patients start to improve in therapy, they may transition to a less intensive schedule. Some can terminate therapy altogether once they accomplish their goals. Others might move to a once a week or one a month check-in session with the therapist. Should the client need more frequent sessions over time, the schedule can be adjusted again. Ideally, the outcome of intensive psychotherapy should be the ability to terminate sessions and use the tools provided in therapy to manage daily life.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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