Does Therapy Really Help? - two people sitting across from each other with pen and paper on table

Does Therapy Really Help?

Dr. Shadonna Harris
May 16, 2023
May 11, 2023

This blog post was written by Shadonna Harris, Counselor at Nivati. You can see more of their content on the Nivati platform and on the Nivati blog. If you want to learn more about Nivati, click here.

Do you have questions about starting therapy? Want to know more about the therapy process and how it works?

Luckily, therapy has become a common part of our everyday conversations and finding information about how to start is more accessible than ever before. It’s great that more people want to learn how to improve their mental health and are seeking to enter therapy. However, if you’ve never been to therapy before, you may be wondering what happens during a typical session and whether it really works. Here are some answers to questions you may have about the process.

What Is Therapy Anyway?

Therapy can be defined as a “form of treatment aimed at relieving emotional distress and mental health problems.” 

There are a few different terms we use when talking about therapy such as “psychotherapy” or “talk therapy.” It’s a collaborative process between the client and therapist. You’re able to be in a safe, nonjudgmental space with a trained professional who provides active listening and empathy. You can talk openly and freely about whatever struggles you’re going through and find solutions on how to cope.

Is Therapy Proven to Work?

Short answer, yes! According to studies on the effectiveness of therapy, 75% of people who enter therapy show some benefit. Around 80% of people are better off by the end of treatment versus those who never sought services. Some therapies, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), have more research proving their effectiveness in treating certain disorders such as anxiety or depression. These types of therapies are considered “evidenced-based treatments.”

There are several variables involved that can make therapy more effective and provide lasting changes. The client must be open to the process and willing to be vulnerable with their therapist. You must also be an active participant in the therapeutic process. This means being forthcoming about your experiences and using the skills and techniques the therapist teaches in your everyday life. Having a good connection and relationship with your therapy provider is a key element in improving mental health and wellbeing.

What Are the Benefits of Therapy?

There are several benefits to seeking therapeutic services. The main benefits are symptom relief and an improvement in quality of life. Research says individuals can expect some symptom improvement or relief after attending an average of 15-20 therapy sessions. Other people may have a space to feel heard and talk through their challenges. The benefits of therapy can extend beyond improvement of mental health. Other benefits include…

·   Learning effective communication skills

·   Identifying and expressing your emotions

·   Understanding your past experiences and/or traumas

·   Learning how to manage anger or stress

·   Improving interpersonal relationships

·   Learning to set and maintain personal boundaries

·   Increasing self-esteem and self-awareness

The benefits of therapy can also extend to those around you. For example, learning effective communication skills can help you improve communication with a spouse, partner, family member, or friend which can then improve that relationship.

How Long Does It Take for Therapy to Work? Is It a Lifelong Process?

Ultimately, you (the client) determine if therapy is working or not. If you experience symptom relief or feel you’re working toward your goals, you may feel therapy is working for you.

As is the case with most things, you get out of it what you put into it! The more you show up in session as your authentic self, and the more forthcoming you are with your therapist, the more progress you can make. Therapists are not magicians, nor do they have all the answers. You are the expert on your life and your needs. Your therapist is there to join and guide you on the journey to healing and help you find your own solutions.

Most people go to therapy with a few goals in mind. For example, they may want to change problematic behaviors, cope with mental health challenges (i.e., depression, anxiety, etc.), manage feelings of grief, or learn how to set personal boundaries. Once the individual’s goals are met, therapy can be scaled back to once a month or discontinued altogether. Ultimately, the decision to continue or discontinue therapy is at the discretion of both the therapist and the client.

Whether or not therapy is a lifelong process depends on the individual. Some people go to therapy to work on a specific problem or goal.  They may benefit from seeing a therapist who’s more solution-focused or provides short-term treatment lasting from a few months up to a year. Other people may have multiple issues they want to address in therapy that require more in-depth exploration. They would benefit from a therapist who provides long-term care. Long-term care doesn’t necessarily mean a person is in therapy the entire time or seeing the same therapist. They may pause therapy or switch therapists if they choose.

If you feel the need to speak with a therapist and get a benefit from going to sessions, it’s okay to continue in therapy. Your therapist can always discuss with you possible new goals to work on in continued therapy sessions.

How Do I Get Started?

Taking the first steps to improve your mental health can be exciting and scary at the same time. There are different options to find a therapist to suit your mental health needs. You can search on your insurance website or call the number on the back of your insurance card to find a therapist in your network. You can search through online sources such as Psychology Today and SAMHSA.

If you don’t have insurance, you can apply for Medicaid or seek services at community-based mental health centers.

If your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) you may be eligible to receive a limited number of free therapy sessions (inquire with your employer). Some therapists don’t accept any insurance, but they offer self-pay and sliding scale fees, which are fees that are adjusted based on the client’s income.

Starting your therapy journey is a great step towards mental wellness. Don’t let the process overwhelm you, though! You can take your time to find a therapist that fits your specific needs.

Read our blog post on how to start therapy for more information on where to start!


By participating in/reading the service/website/blog/email series on this website, you acknowledge that this is a personal website/blog and is for informational purposes and should not be seen as mental health care advice. You should consult with a licensed professional before you rely on this website/blog’s information. All things written on this website should not be seen as therapy treatment and should not take the place of therapy or any other health care or mental health advice. Always seek the advice of a mental health care professional or physician. The content on this blog is not meant to and does not substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Dr. Shadonna Harris
Dr. Shadonna Harris
Dr. Harris is a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology and has over 18 years of experience in the mental health field. She currently works as a licensed therapist and consultant. She also has experience working with various client populations and in a variety of settings including inpatient and outpatient mental health, community mental health, residential treatment facilities, schools, and addiction treatment centers.