How Does Therapy Work?

How does therapy work?

This is such a heavy question to many people.

It’s likely a barrier to accessing therapy that most people face as well. If you don’t understand something, that something remains risky in your mind.

The truth of the matter is, many people have pre-conceived notions on what therapy is and how it works.

Some may picture a stereotypical image of a dimly lit office, the patient lying on the couch, and the therapist bombarding them with questions about their mother and sexual preferences.

This could not be further from reality.

Therapy, at its core, is a process of self-discovery led and facilitated by a trained professional in order to address problems, concerns, or difficulties that the patient has identified in their life.

The therapist, while sometimes challenging their client, will always work toward the client’s end goals; whether that is addressing symptoms of depression, handling anxiety, interacting well with others, or other life struggles.

When you enter into a therapeutic relationship with a professional Therapist, you often provide at least a general direction you would like to move, if not a specific goal you would like to achieve.

That Therapist then will assess your situation, struggles, symptoms, etc., and collaborate with you to create a game plan to proceed, often called a “Treatment Plan”.

This plan will cover things like what you want to talk about or work on in sessions, what end goal you want to see, how many sessions it may take to get there, and any expectations that the therapist has of you and you should have of the therapist.

Depending on who you’re working with, the Therapist may have a written plan that you sign or keep a copy of, or it will be a verbally agreed upon idea of how to proceed.

After this is established, the Therapist will typically follow the plan and check in with you occasionally to make sure everyone is still on track, and determine if any changes need to be made to that initial plan.

Once goals are achieved, the client will meet with the Therapist to possibly end the therapeutic relationship and continue with their lives. This is something called “Termination” in the therapy world, and is a touchy subject to some.

Many people who avoid accessing therapeutic services often do so because they hear horror stories of people being in therapy for their entire lives.

While there are some legitimate reasons to continue long-term treatment with a client – typically with more severe and complex struggles – the vast majority of clients will see a therapist for a short period of time to get help working out a problem.

At the end of the day, the client determines whether or not therapy needs to continue.

All of these concerns would be addressed in your initial session with a therapist when creating the plan for treatment, along with any concerns with confidentiality or privacy.

You may have heard that term before, “Confidentiality”. Essentially it is the ground rules for privacy within the therapeutic relationship.

Generally, a Therapist will not disclose any information about you, what you talk about, or what problems you’re facing unless specifically requested or allowed to by you, the client.

You should be aware, however, that there are limits to confidentiality.

Each state’s laws are different, but generally speaking, if a client informs the Therapist that there may be abuse of a child or elder, if the client plans to hurt themselves or someone else, or if ordered by the courts, a Therapist is obligated to disclose only the least amount of information needed to address that concern.

Other than those specific situations outlined by law, the communication you have between a Therapist is completely private.

One last barrier that people often face is cost.

Now, this is a tough one because with the rising costs of healthcare, people often see therapy as a luxury they cannot afford.

Therapy often addresses problems that are impacting other areas in life. Often times, clients are engaging in financially costly behaviors that may be eliminated with the right treatment.

Therapists also may be able to work with you in your specific financial situation. Many Therapists offer some limited “sliding-scale” slots where they will be able to see a client at a reduced cost based on their financial situation.

Another thing to consider is the possibility that cost is an excuse being used to not seek treatment or help. Many times, people fear change and fear being challenges, and would rather continue in destructive or disruptive behaviors.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether or not you will seek out help. I would hope that the benefit of addressing problems and struggles that cause so much stress in life would be worth the short-term financial costs of getting that help.

What are your other questions about therapy? I’d like to know.

Send me an email at and let me know. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have.

If you’d like to schedule a consultation to meet with me, call me at 501-615-7044 or click HERE to request a call. I am able to see clients in person from my Little Rock, AR office.

If you are considering therapy, and don’t know where to find a therapist, go over to where you’ll be able to search for a peer-reviewed therapist in your area.