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.

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