By Ernest Schmidt, LCSW
I can’t count how many times I have heard this comment from students or from people in general. Luckily, people around me don’t hold back their thoughts, even though most of them know I am a therapist. Not only do I find this funny, but I truly enjoy hearing people’s impressions of therapists or therapy in general.
I can relate to these beliefs; before I became a therapist, I always wondered what therapists or psychologists did to help people. Because so much of the mental health field is unknown, it appears vague and nonspecific. Often, this is incorrectly interpreted to mean that therapy must be like fortune telling or tarot cards in that it won’t work unless you believe in it, and that it has no real value on its own merits. Fortunately, there are enough people who do “believe” in therapy to keep us therapists busy using our proven techniques to help them make positive changes in their lives.
The Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
I often wonder how many people are suffering with anxiety or depression related problems because they don’t realize that therapy actually is a proven method for relief. Not only are there hundreds of research studies out there that show the effectiveness of therapy (especially CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy), but in some cases, the studies are showing that therapy is superior to medication.
“Good therapy is based on what the evidence shows in research.”
The reason being is that therapy offers limited side effects and longer-lasting relief with less relapses. Good therapy is based on what the evidence shows in research. Effective counseling is not just about what feels right or what a person thinks would be helpful; there is actual evidence showing that this technique or that style works. Effective, evidenced-based therapy is not something you can choose to believe in or not; the science shows that it works. Saying that you don’t believe in therapy is like saying that you don’t believe the earth is round.
Unfortunately, many therapists do work by the “seat of their pants” and use techniques that are unproven, so in some cases you may be correct in saying “I don’t believe in therapy.” To add to this, if you don’t actively do your part to practice the skills taught in therapy or complete the necessary homework assignments, therapy will likely be unsuccessful. If you want therapy to work for you, the key is to look for a therapist who uses proven therapy techniques and to actively participate in any given exercises or homework assignments.
With the right therapist and a little dedication, you just might find yourself believing in therapy after all.
Contact us to schedule an appointment by calling 650-461-9026