Does Therapy Work?

People often tell me that they have tried therapy in the past without experiencing success or satisfaction. People leave therapy before they're emotionally stable and healthy or have achieved their goals. They leave feeling frustrated and skeptical, upset about having spent the time and money, but therapy can be effective.

So, what results in good, effective therapy? It is a combination of factors that involve both the therapist and the client. Both individuals play a role in determining the outcome of therapy. Below are some of the most important factors that determine therapeutic success, according to research.

  1. Therapeutic Alliance: This means the client trusts their therapist, finds them competent, and feels comfortable opening up and sharing their thoughts, feelings, and history.
  2. Attending Therapy Regularly: When clients begin therapy, attending weekly sessions is important. Research shows that clients who attend therapy less than weekly during the first six months report being less satisfied and are more likely to drop out of therapy prematurely. The reason that weekly attendance matters during the initial stages of therapy is that a momentum is developed. It takes time to build rapport between therapist and client, and it is more difficult to do if the client only comes occasionally and sporadically.
  3. Setting Goals: This provides structure and purpose to therapy. Setting goals builds confidence in clients and gives them hope.
  4. Homework Assignments: This doesn't have to mean an extensive or written assignment. Even providing clients with a few things to think about or to take notes on that occur to them during the week can be a useful exercise that gives clients motivation.
  5. Assessing Progress: Periodically, it is wise for therapists to check in with their clients to ensure the client feels that progress is being made and is satisfied with the process.

In sum, if the therapist diligently assesses expectations, develops goals, and checks in, therapy can be very valuable. If the client is honest, open and willing to engage in the process, they will benefit most from therapy and it becomes less of a mystery.

Please contact Dr. Messenger for more information.