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Does therapy actually work?

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Written by Emma Reliason

B.A. - Psychologist

28 Feb, 2022

Many of us can agree, life isn’t easy. 

In fact, even the wealthiest, most successful people suffer from depression, anxiety, or have experienced trauma. It’s impossible to get through life without experiencing heartbreak, loss, or difficult circumstances. 

If you feel as though you’re experiencing a particularly tough season of your life and you’ve considered reaching out for help, you may have wondered to yourself… 

Does therapy actually work?

There are many different types of therapy, each with their own unique strategy aimed at helping clients navigate through the hardest parts of life. No matter what type of therapy you choose, both short and long term benefits will follow. 

What Exactly Is Therapy?

If you’ve never personally been to a therapist, you may be wondering what exactly goes on - and what benefits talking to a complete stranger once a week will provide. 

The stigma that “only those who are severely mentally ill go to therapy” unfortunately still exists, however it’s far from the truth. 

Therapy is a form of problem solving, and internal healing, in which a client meets with a therapist on a regular basis in order to find healthy solutions for depression, anxiety, loss, trauma, grief, self-destructive behaviours and more. 

Through talk therapy, a client is able to express any mental health concerns, behavioural problems, relationship stressors and life circumstances. A relationship is formed between the client and therapist as they work together to form healthy strategies to overcome life’s obstacles. 

Online Therapy vs. In-Person Therapy

When COVID-19 hit, the use of online platforms for virtual meetings exploded. 

Therapy was no exception, as the rise of seeing a therapist via online hit an all time high. 

There are benefits to each type of therapy, despite their core agendas being identical. 

With online therapy, you’re able to meet with a qualified counsellor from the comfort and safety of your own home. This type of therapy is ideal for those suffering with social anxiety disorders or depression. 

In-person therapy gives clients the ability to express themselves in a supportive, and neutral space. While in-person therapy may require more work, it also gives clients a reason to leave the house, which in some cases is extremely beneficial.  

How long should I have therapy for?

In our fast paced world, there never seems to be enough time. This may have you questioning just how long therapy may last for. However, there really is no simple answer.

When it comes down to a time frame, the length of therapy all comes down to what you need. 

If you’re considering therapy for an immediate problem, you may find only a few sessions is sufficient. These could be circumstances such as rape, abortion, a car accident or any other distressing situation. 

However, if you’re seeking treatment for more in-depth, personal self-discovery and healing from trauma or mental illness, therapy can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

Repair from life-long abuse, neglect, trauma or mental illness is a slow, steady process that is unable to be rushed.

Meeting with your therapist once a week is an ideal starting point for those trying therapy for the first time. Once a relationship is formed, your therapist can recommend any additional sessions if they feel it is necessary. 

Benefits From Therapy

Therapy can present both short-term and long-term benefits. Short term benefits may look like the issue at hand being resolved, whereas long term benefits may be internal changes that last a lifetime. 

Therapy Can Help You Learn Coping Skills

This is one of the long term benefits of therapy that can follow you for the rest of your life. Coping skills are defined as any method that helps you work through a difficult time. By support and guidance from a therapist, you can learn how to cope with stress, grief, loss, and more, in your own personalised, unique way.

Therapy Can Help You Better Interact With People

It’s easy to point the finger at others when it comes to strain in our relationships. However, with therapy, you have a third party unbiased opinion to help you understand and realise how your own behaviours can play a negative role in your friend, family and intimate relationships. In addition, a therapist can teach a client new ways in how to better communicate with those closest to them, as to avoid any further conflict. 

Therapy Can Boost Your Mood

It’s true, therapy can make you feel happier. By working through your past, present, and future, with a trained professional, you’re able to understand yourself at a deeper level. While self-awareness itself may not cause happiness, it’s a baby step closer to loving and embracing who you are at the core. In addition, talk therapy has been shown to relieve stress, a negative emotion often hindering clients from feeling happy. 

Therapy Can Make You More Productive

When our brains are flooded with “happy hormones” such as serotonin and dopamine, the productivity centres in our brains are also turned up a notch. With talk therapy, you’re able to release pent up negative emotions, allowing positive emotions to take their place. Productivity is simply a side effect of these positive hormones taking over, allowing you to stress even less, a beautiful cycle. 

Therapy Can Decrease Chronic Stress Levels

Therapy is so much more than just venting about life’s problems. A therapist can teach their client different ways to relax their bodies and minds, in addition to educating them on concepts such as “radical acceptance” (the idea that many things are beyond our control). By doing so, a therapist helps their patient learn ways to control their bodies' physical and emotional responses to stress. 

Therapy Works, Research Proves It

In 2018, the Australian Psychological Society came out with a comprehensive document detailing the extensive research backed evidence to prove therapy does in fact work. 

Not only does it work, but it works for many, many different mental illnesses and scenarios. 

Within the 175 page document, disorders such as: mood, anxiety, substance use, eating, adjustment, dissociative, sexual, conduct disorder and more were assessed - and proven - to have positive results when treated with therapy. 

Therapy not only allows a client to identify emotional distress within themselves, it allows patients to uncover any trauma they may have ignored in the past, and guides them to a better life by improving their communication and coping skills. 

Don’t merely survive life, thrive in it - with the help of a therapist.

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Emma Reliason

B.A. - Psychologist

Emma is an accomplished writer with a passion for mental health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology where she gained insight into why people think, feel and behave the way they do.

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