How Does Therapy Help?

July 13, 2012

It helps to talk about your concerns.

Have you ever had the experience of relief after talking with someone about something you had been holding in?  Talking is an important step to overcoming your problems, because it lets you acknowledge what is going on, and address it consciously.  Often your concerns can seem more manageable when you talk about them with someone you trust.  As you talk, your perspective on the problem often begins to change.

Talking to a therapist can help you to…

Get emotional support:
  • feel heard and understood and process your thoughts and emotions in a safe, supportive atmosphere.
  • discover your strengths and how to use them to grow stronger in other areas, to help you regain a sense of control and pleasure in life.
Think through the problem:
  • pinpoint problems, problem-solve, gain insight into what is causing your difficulties, come up with ideas about how to feel better and be more effective
  • recognize and challenge problematic thinking patterns that contribute to painful emotions, and develop a more balanced outlook.
  • explore and understand things about your past, your family, and your life patterns, to get at the deeper causes of your discomfort.
  • get honest feedback, notice things about yourself, and understand how you impact others
  • find books, or other information relevant to your issues
Consider options and make decisions:
  • learn specific life skills like communication skills, stress management skills, relationship skills, organization skills, how to change your unhealthy habits, and more.
  • make a plan that includes certain activities, techniques, or skills. Having a counselor to check in with can help you to fine-tune your plan, follow through with it, and adjust it as necessary. Therapy can help you feel empowered to act!
Although it is important to have friends and family to turn to in difficult times, some issues may be too difficult, personal, complicated, vague, or deeply rooted; or you may want the input of an objective third party who won’t gossip. Sometimes family and friends might not be available as much as you need, or they might not know how to help.  That’s when talking with a therapist can be especially helpful. Therapy can go beyond the obvious, to help you figure out what’s keeping you stuck. It can help you regain a sense of control and pleasure in life.

Four Key Therapeutic Factors

The therapy experience is unique for each individual, and different people will experience different aspects of therapy as particularly helpful.
Research shows that there are four key factors that make therapy helpful:
  1. Therapeutic Relationship: First, having a supportive and trusting relationship with a compassionate and respectful therapist can be therapeutic in and of itself.  Knowing that your therapist is here to listen, to understand and to help, and that they accept you as you are, even while they help you work toward your goals, can be a healing experience for people. This is especially important for people who have been hurt in the past, who have difficulty trusting or feeling safe, and who have relationship issues.
  2. Emotional Processing: Second, therapy offers an opportunity to process your emotions. Experiencing your emotions plays an important role in coping and healing.  For some this comes naturally, and it’s comforting to have a place where they can safely process their emotions. But emotional experiencing can be especially useful for people who tend to avoid their emotions (and therefore avoid dealing with their issues).  Fear of emotions is an important obstacle to overcome, and learning to manage emotions is an important skill to learn.
  3. Insight and Learning: Therapy is an opportunity to observe and describe yourself and your issues, and to gain some perspective and insight. Therapy can help you to make sense of things. It can be helpful to identify patterns of thoughts or behaviors. It can be even more meaningful to understand the roots those patterns grew out of… to answer the question “why.” This kind of insight can help you to understand yourself, to make important decisions or changes, and to find acceptance or forgiveness if needed. Understanding the source and nature of your problem makes it easier to work on. If insight gives you the answer to “why,” then learning can give you the answer to “how.” For example, therapy can help you learn coping skills, communication skills, relaxation skills, self-esteem skills, time management or organization skills, relationship skills, etc. Learning psychological principles about what is healthy versus unhealthy can also be helpful when applied to your lifestyle, relationships, and decisions.
  4. Practicing New Behaviors: Lastly, therapy gives you the opportunity to practice any new behaviors that you’d like to get good at. Whether you practice them in session or between sessions, new behaviors are how you translate what you’ve learned (or what you’ve decided) into action. It’s easier said than done, and takes effort, time and patience, but healthy new behaviors can have a lasting positive influence on your life, emotions, and relationships. The more you practice, the more familiar and comfortable you will be with your “new and improved” approach to things.
author: Anda Jines MS LCPC
Hoover & Associates’ team of licensed psychologists, counselors, and social workers is here to offer you help and guidance. We’ve been providing mental health services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago since 1985. We’re conveniently located at 16325 S. Harlem Ave., Suite 200 (2nd floor), Tinley Park, IL, 60477. Our offices are conveniently located near Orland Park, Orland Hills, Homer Glen, Mokena, Frankfort, Matteson, Country Club Hills, Flossmoor, Homewood, Hazel Crest, Markham, Oak Forest, Midlothian, Crestwood, Palos Heights, Palos Park, and Palos Hills. Call to make an appointment: 708-429-6999.
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