3 Stages of Therapy – Marriage and Family Center

3 Stages of Therapy - Marriage and Family Center

Capt. Christine Beck plays with her combat stress therapy dog, Major Timmy, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, April 13, 2012. Beck is Timmy’s primary handler and both are part of the 528th Combat and Operational Stress Control Team, a unit dedicated to keeping service members mentally stable while in the area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom)

3 Stages of Therapy

Green Checkmark - Marriage and Family Center1

Step 1


Through the first stage, the therapist gets to know you and allows you to come to know and trust him/her. During this phase you can expect the therapist to ask questions about you and your situation. These questions are guided by his/her education and training in psychology (human behavior) and psychopathology (what goes wrong with human behavior).

It is this education and training that lets your therapist get a psychologically correct picture of you and of the situation you’d like to improve. This stage usually takes one or two sessions.

Step 2


Interventions happen during and between sessions. Interventions during sessions may involve, for example, learning different techniques of relaxing or interacting with people. Between-session interventions, sometimes called “homework,” are exercises you carry out after you leave the session. They may be written assignments that ask you to record your thoughts or feelings, or as simple as noticing how you act in a given situation.

Interventions are experiences designed to bring about change—to cause people to behave differently and therefore get better results. Again depending on the specifics, this stage usually takes between two and four additional sessions.

Family - Marriage and Family Center2
Hope - Marriage and Family Center3

Step 3


By this point in therapy, the interventions may have brought about welcome new thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. But that doesn’t mean those changes will necessarily be lasting. The stabilization phase is designed to make those changes last. The therapist will teach you how to use repetition and self-monitoring to maintain your new, more effective patterns over longer and longer periods of time. Because people habituate at different rates it is hard to predict the number of sessions stabilization will take, but for many people it takes between two and eight more sessions.

In order to maintain the highest level of life enjoyment and stay on a healthy track, some people choose to stay in Stabilization indefinitely, checking in with the therapist every two to six weeks.