How effective is psychotherapy?

Hundreds of studies have found that psychotherapy helps people  make positive changes in their lives.

Reviews of these studies show that about 75 percent of people who enter psychotherapy show some benefit. Other reviews have found that the average person who engages in psychotherapy is better off by the end of treatment than 80 percent of those who don’t receive treatment at all.

How does psychotherapy work?

Successful treatment is the result of three factors working together:

  • Evidence-based treatment that is appropriate for your problem.
  • The psychologist’s clinical expertise.
  • Your characteristics, values, culture and preferences.

When people begin psychotherapy, they often feel that their distress is never going to end. Psychotherapy helps people understand that they can do something to improve their situation. That leads to changes that enhance healthy behavior, whether it’s improving relationships, expressing emotions better, doing better at work or school, or thinking more positively.

While some issues and problems respond best to a particular style of therapy, what remains critical and important is the therapeutic alliance and relationship with your psychologist.

What if psychotherapy doesn’t seem to be working?

When you began psychotherapy, your psychologist probably worked with you to develop goals and a rough timeline for treatment. As you go along, you should be asking yourself whether the psychologist seems to understand you, whether the treatment plan makes sense and whether you feel like you’re making progress.

Some people begin to feel better in about six to 12 sessions. If you don’t start seeing signs of progress, discuss it with your psychologist. Your psychologist may initiate a conversation about what to do. If he or she doesn’t, bring it up yourself. You could ask your psychologist about additional or alternative treatment methods, for example. Sometimes speaking up to your psychologist can be very empowering, especially since your psychologist will be understanding and nonjudgmental instead of offended.

Keep in mind that as psychotherapy progresses, you may feel overwhelmed. You may feel more angry, sad or confused than you did at the beginning of the process. That doesn’t mean psychotherapy isn’t working. Instead, it can be a sign that your psychologist is pushing you to confront difficult truths or do the hard work of making changes. In such cases, these strong emotions are a sign of growth rather than evidence of a standstill. Remember, sometimes things may feel worse before they get better.

In some cases, of course, the relationship between a patient and the psychologist isn’t as good as it should be. The psychologist should be willing to address those kinds of issues, too. If you’re worried about your psychologist’s diagnosis of your problems, it might be helpful to get a second opinion from another psychologist, as long as you let your original psychologist know you’re doing so.

If the situation doesn’t improve, you and your psychologist may decide it’s time for you to start working with a new psychologist. Don’t take it personally. It’s not you; it’s just a bad fit. And because the therapeutic alliance is so crucial to the effectiveness of psychotherapy, you need a good fit.

If you do decide to move on, don’t just stop coming to your first psychologist. Instead, tell him or her that you’re leaving and why you’re doing so. A good psychologist will refer you to someone else, wish you luck and urge you not to give up on psychotherapy just because your first attempt didn’t go well. Tell your next psychologist what didn’t work to help ensure a better fit.

Text provided by:  http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/understanding-psychotherapy.aspx