Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Have you ever noticed that some people will swear that therapy totally changed their lives for the better, and others will say they’ve tried repeatedly and gotten nowhere? Still others will say they don’t even believe in the idea of it- that it’s just a waste of time and money.
It could be just a case of “strokes and folks,” but I think there might be a little more to it than that in some cases.
Now, if you’re in that last camp, and you believe that therapy is just a bunch of hogwash, then far be it from me to try and change your mind. (Although you might want to ask yourself why you’re spending your time reading a therapy blog…)
And if you’re in the first group, and you love your therapy, then I’d actually love to hear from you: what, in your opinion, made or makes your therapy successful?
Yes, a good therapist of course, but I’m wondering if there’s anything you can take the credit for doing on your end, that contributed to your desired outcome. (This is not a rhetorical question: feel free to email me your replies: firstname.lastname@example.org )
But what about the folks in that frustrating category of “I’ve tried therapy so many times and got nowhere?”
Is it because your problem was too severe for therapy to be effective? Maybe, but I’ll bet you could find others with similar diagnoses, traumas, or symptoms, who might say they did find therapy at least somewhat helpful.
Is it because the therapists you tried were incompetent? Maybe. But if you tried more than one or two, and you didn’t just pull a name out of the yellow pages (or google) then chances are you chose clinicians who were reputed to have effectively helped others with similar problems. So maybe they’re not entirely incompetent and there’s something else.
Maybe they were simply not a good fit for you. Now we’re getting warmer.
(By the way, feel free to disagree with any of my logic here.)
While therapy is not a magic bullet (for anyone, even the therapy-evangelicals) there do seem to be some people who are more receptive to its help than others. More specifically, not just people, but habits, beliefs, and practices of therapy clients that make them more likely to reap its benefits.
It’s not even specifically hopefulness, because part of some disorders, like depression and anxiety, is that they rob you of hope (at lease sometimes.) But there are seven general features that many “successful” therapy clients seem to have in common:
*Taking the time to formulate and understand their reasons for seeking help, as much as possible
*Knowing how to choose the right therapist and modality for their work
*Being willing to be educable and open-minded within the therapy process
*Learning how to offer the therapist honest, clear, and relevant information in sessions
*Knowing how to identify and address the obstacles that arise in therapy
*Understanding how to utilize the other 167 hours of the week to maximize the therapy work
*Knowing how to apply therapeutic tools and growth beyond treatment
There is a lot more to be said about each of these categories, and I’m sure many readers can think of other examples (which I’m always happy to hear! Again, seriously, email me:)
But these are the umbrella categories that seem to be the “difference that makes the difference.”
Therapy, when it goes well, is a one-hour weekly investment that upgrades the rest of the week and sometimes the rest of your life. Learning how to “work therapy well” by developing the simple skills listed above, can upgrade the entire therapy experience, which can be an entire lifestyle upgrade. If you already see this, you know how true it is. And if you’re interested in learning more about it, then have a look at this.