What Exactly Does Therapy Accomplish?

Therapy can be a wonderful tool to help people live happy, fulfilling lives. Therapy addresses a wide range of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and grief, but therapy can also be used for purposes other than immediate mental health concerns. For example, if you are struggling with the stress of a new career, a therapist can help you develop strategies for managing the stress to get the most out of your new job. Read the answers below from therapists who explain what therapy can accomplish:

Cohen-MarlaMarla B. Cohen, PsyD: There are possibly as many answers to this question as there are people seeking therapy and therapists providing it. The goals of therapy will vary based on the individual and his or her presenting issues and objectives.

In early sessions, psychotherapy will provide a non-judgmental environment in which you can feel connected, supported, and understood. You will quickly learn that, despite your concerns, you are not alone and you will have a partner in your efforts to overcome whatever situation or condition may have brought you into treatment.

If you are experiencing distressing symptoms related to depression or anxiety, therapy will educate you about your condition and teach you methods to cope with and/or relieve your sad moods, nervous feelings, stress, and other symptoms.

Some forms of therapy are insight-oriented; they strive to increase your awareness of the unconscious motivations and historical explanations for your current patterns. Other forms of therapy are active, and will offer you specific, research-based techniques to help you change your negative thinking, manage stress, improve your mood, and enhance the quality of your relationships. In the broadest sense, therapy guides people toward greater self-awareness, self-empowerment, and overall happier and more fulfilling lives.

Noel-SarahSarah Noel, MS, LMHC: Therapy can help people successfully address a vast array of mental health issues. A common misconception is that something must be wrong with your mental health in order to benefit from therapy. People experiencing mental health concerns are certainly among those who can benefit from therapy, but many people at some point in their lives find therapy to be helpful.

Therapy can provide a dedicated time and space to delve into just about anything that is troubling you—complications or dissatisfaction with family, intimate relationships, friendships, your career; internal struggles regarding your sense of self; or existential dilemmas about life, death, and the meaning of it all.

Therapy typically begins as a process of exploration. This will help your therapist get to know you and understand the issue or issues that you are looking to address. You and your therapist will be establishing rapport and building a strong therapeutic relationship. You will likely also gain a deeper understanding of yourself and the concerns that brought you into therapy. This understanding will help you draw some connections and reveal patterns that you may not have seen before, and these new insights will likely lead you to identify some changes you wish to make. Some people feel ready to go out and work on making these changes on their own, while others like to remain in the supportive space provided by the therapeutic relationship while making these changes.

fuller-staceyStacey Fuller, LMFT: People tend to come into therapy when they are experiencing some difficulty coping or resolving an issue on their own. Commonly, people will seek therapy because they are experiencing depression, anxiety, relational problems, or another issue that is causing them some distress.

Whatever the reason for seeking therapy, often people seek treatment when they have already utilized and exhausted all of the methods they have for coping with an issue and still have not been able to resolve it.

There are a number of different types of talk therapies and each differs a bit in its approach to treating the presenting issue. What nearly all therapeutic approaches share in common is providing a safe and non-judgmental space along with a strong alliance between therapist and person in therapy.

In general, therapy is designed to help increase your personal insight, promote healthy behaviors, and improve upon or teach new methods for coping. Armed with these new skills, you can begin to make changes in your life. The ultimate goal of therapy is to improve your quality of life and provide you with better overall functioning.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Therapy FAQs

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • ml f.

    December 15th, 2018 at 9:40 PM

    Therapy never did anything for me. It was a giant waste of time and money. I paid the therapist rent to sit there and not do anything.
    Therapy is a giant scam.

  • Carol S.

    January 17th, 2019 at 1:29 AM

    This is a great post on mental health issues and therapy. Rather than indulge such shame by dancing around the subject, try to make the optimistic assumption that if you could speak directly, though tactfully, and with care, then that might bring relief. Thanks for sharing..!!

  • Corinne

    February 12th, 2019 at 12:38 PM

    I am seeing a therapist to help with overcoming childhood abuse. I am a middle-aged woman, and I recently let go of my mother (she is alive) because the abuse has never stopped. I’m not sure what the purpose of therapy is. The therapist is a good listener. I think the benefit I get out of it is I can just tell someone that isn’t my husband about the pain I feel. He doesn’t understand, my mother was great at hiding it. In this last year he has come to understand how crazy she is, but this is year one of that for him. I’m in year 52. I’m further down that road and he still has hope. It irks me that I have to accommodate his feelings in all of this, so I found it better to confide in a therapist in order to not place the burden of validating my experience on my husband. He isn’t qualified to get it. He doesn’t have enough experience. That releases some of my tension, pain and frustration, honestly. It gives me some validation that the things she did were so wrong and, really just awful. I need that. Beyond just being a good listener and having someone to talk to, I’m not seeing what it does. But that’s enough for me.

  • Liv S.

    March 5th, 2019 at 12:24 PM

    I do agree that it’s a misconception to think that there has to be something wrong in your mental health to have to go to therapy, I used to think that. My daughter was just told she has depression and as a mother it’s heartbreaking to see that in her life, so I want to take her to therapy, even though she’s doing great now I want her to already know how to cope with her problems before they get here. Thank you for this article, I’ll keep it in mind.

  • Sam

    August 3rd, 2021 at 4:38 PM

    All therapy ever did was make me feel like an idiot for hiring one of those people. The one I hired mocked and humiliated me. Therapy has left me scarred.

  • Susan

    February 27th, 2022 at 9:09 PM

    While I believe it is not mentally healthy to dwell on very many of the bad things that happened in life, for some of the bigger, scarier ones, therapy is a place where you bring them out into the open , that you experienced under others that kept secret what was happening, things that never should have been kept secret. You are no longer trapped alone in the memory with the perpetrator; but now the safety and kindness of another is brought into the memory – so it can be put to rest, and you leave secure knowing, that since the biggest things were put to rest, other big things can now be put to rest on their own. Other than that, therapy is limited; it cannot solve today’s problems that have resulted from those bad experiences. Right brain business people are usually better at that, counselors my opinion are assuredly left brain people whose skill set is compassion not the business world operandum. also People live longer when they have others to talk with. If in today’s culture a person cannot find a friend who will listen to today’s problems or care while sharing their own with you, a paid counselor type of compassion-business friend is better than no friend at all. Sometimes a person has to wait many years and keep trying, to find like-minded , caring people willing to both give and receive. A therapist is a band aid in the meantime and a wound needs comforting before it can heal on its own. And of course the things of deep pain are best brought to the open in the privacy of a therapist. The bible says “have many friends but few confidentes” – the best of friendships can purposely or accidentally go astray, therapy pretty much guarantees discussions stay confidential.

  • Solomon

    May 30th, 2022 at 9:41 AM

    Quite educating

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.