If you are considering psychotherapy, you may be wondering what the potential benefits of therapy are. After all, psychotherapy does involve a commitment on your part and you want to be sure that you are investing your energy in a treatment that is likely to work.
Fortunately, many researchers, clinicians and professional associations have studied the benefits of psychotherapy. For your benefit, we have summarized some of the key findings and reflections that we believe may help you understand the benefits of therapy.
How beneficial is psychotherapy?
In their book Discovering Psychology (2010), Don H. Hockenbury and Sandra E. Hockenbury include a meta-analysis (a study that pools results of hundreds of other studies into a single analysis) to examine the benefits of psychotherapy. The analysis found that:
- On average, individuals who complete psychotherapy treatment are better off than 80% of those not receiving treatment
- The benefits of psychotherapy are realized in a relatively short timeframe; approximately 50% clients show significant improvement by the 8th weekly session and 75% show significant improvement by the end of a 6-month treatment period
- Gains that clients make as a result of psychotherapy have long-standing benefits, lasting long after the end of therapy
What are the benefits of psychotherapy?
While psychotherapy can offer a number of benefits to clients, related to their specific therapeutic goals, the following are common areas in which psychotherapy has proven to be effective:
- Helping individuals better understand themselves and their personal goals and values
- Developing skills for improving relationships.
- Helping clients overcome and manage mental health challenges.
- Instituting and maintaining important health behaviors and lifestyle changes
Why is psychotherapy beneficial?
In her Huffington Post Article, “What Good Can Psychotherapy Do?”, Mary Benatar, Ph.D., LCSW reflects on the contributions that psychotherapy can make and explores research suggesting why an effective psychotherapeutic relationship can help. We’ve excerpted some of the key insights from her article below, but click here for a link to her full article
“Within most adult folks there is an inner wisdom that would offer great assistance in resolving the impasses of our life. Therapy is about accessing our inner, innate wisdom, not replacing it with someone else’s. I can think of many instances where I felt that there were no solutions. I was trapped. In retrospect I knew the solutions and just found them totally unpalatable. I could not end that destructive friendship, it was just too important to me. I could not resolve a domestic or an economic problem, I just wasn’t strong enough.
Excerpt from “What Good Can Psychotherapy Do?” by Mary Benatar, Ph.D., LCSW (January 2013)
So what are the elements of psychotherapy that enable that inner compass?
1. The magic of relationship: When researchers have tried to isolate the “active” ingredient in successful psychotherapies, across many theoretical approaches (CBT, psychoanalysis, mind/body approaches) they frequently come up with the same answer: “it’s the relationship, stupid,” the connection between therapist and patient is the key remedial.
Neuroscientists have a more exact way of stating this. It’s about “limbic (a key brain structure) resonance.” Simply stated, therapy is not so much about the rational, linear, thinking mind. It’s more like music. In the best situation the therapist hears the particular “melodic essence” of the individual, playing softly in the background and is able to tune in and hum along, maybe even in harmony. Just this tuning in is deeply healing. How many people in your life have actually heard your “melodic essence?”
2. A therapist listens differently than other people: I heard a story once of a psychotherapist describing his occupation as one of listening — “I listen for a living.”
A therapist’s training and experience sharpen and educate their musical ear. It has been called “listening with the third ear,” among other things. When things go well, a good therapist hears what others do not, even the speaker.
A therapist may hear anger where others only hear hopelessness, fear where others hear anger, shame where others hear belligerence. Truly thrilling for both the patient and the therapist is the moment when a door opens and the narrator gets a slightly different perspective, a different way of hearing their own feelings/problems. “Maybe its not my inadequacy, maybe I am feeling truly alone in this intimate relationship.” “Perhaps my adversary doesn’t hate me, perhaps they are deeply ashamed of their failures in life and feel humiliated.” And most powerfully, “maybe there is meaning embedded in my confusion and in my unremitting pain.” Meaning can set one free.”
If you or someone you care about is exploring psychotherapy, please contact Endeavor Psychology for a consultation to see if our practice would be a good fit for you and your needs.