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5 Basic Ingredients of Good Therapy

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Author: Shernide Delva

Therapy is a great option for many people. However, it is important to know when you are receiving the best care possible. Many people who go to therapy are in a vulnerable state and feel they must stay with the therapist they go to. However, this could not be further from the truth. When you make the decision to go to therapy, it is crucial you find someone who you connect with and who you feel comfortable opening up to. You do not have to stick with the first therapist you find. Therapy is a relationship dynamic between two people, and not everyone will be the right match for you.

While it is important to give your therapist a chance to help you, it also is important to know when something is not working. After a while, if you feel you are not getting the results you want, it may be time to look for someone new. The important thing is not to give up and continue therapy. Once you find the right person, changes will inevitably follow.

An article in Psychology Today listed basic ingredients of good therapy. Here are five that stood out:

5 Basic Ingredients of Good Therapy

  1. Therapy is Not a Friendship.
    Your therapist should not feel like a best friend. Your therapist may be friendly, but ultimately they are not your friend. If your therapist feels more like a friend than a therapist, that is a problem. Therapy is different from a friendship because the two of you will create a plan, purpose, and goal together. You do not “hang out” with your therapist. You and your therapist will work together toward a mutually negotiated goal.   Every action of your therapist should be directed only towards helping you. Your therapist should not be using your time to take care of their needs. If you find your therapist is using therapy time for anything other than helping you, then what they are doing is not good therapy.
  2. Good Therapy is Evidence-Based.
    Good therapy should involve keeping good records. Your therapist should be generating hypotheses and testing them. Your therapist should be updating their knowledge and correcting their mistakes. Good therapy should seek to foster help and nourish change. If your therapist promises to “change your personality,” then they are not practicing good therapy. The art of good therapy is to use evidence-based treatment to help their client. Good therapy should not ignore scientific data, knowledge or evidence. Good therapy should recognize that the evidence wins out in the end.
  3. Therapy Affirms Your Self-Worth.
    Good therapy looks to facilitate sound mental health. Mental health is a process you should use in pursuit of your chosen goals. Good therapy should not focus on judgment. Others have already judged most people for their troubles. A good therapist should not push judgment onto their clients. Instead, they should support you. You should be receiving a healing experience. Your therapist should offer you understanding, empathy, attention, acceptance and encouragement.  Therefore, if your therapist questions your moral character, wealth or ethnicity, they are not a good therapist. A good therapist should honor every client, regardless of how the therapist feels about the individual. Needless to say, good therapy does not condescend, abuse, manipulate, lie or cheat.
  4. Therapy Should Focus on You Doing the Work
    Your therapist should not feel like your parent. A therapist should not take too much credit for their client’s success. The client has to want to change and want to do the work. Factors such as hope, motivation, and social support will determine the outcome of therapy more than the therapist can. All therapy, in a fundamental sense, is self-therapy. You have to want to do the work for the therapy to work. If you feel like your therapist is taking too much control that is not a good sign of proper therapy.
  5. Therapy Encourages Independence
    The ultimate goal of therapy is to move forward. Therapy should focus on gaining independent decision-making skills. You should not let your therapist interfere with your entire decision making. On the contrary, your therapist should help you learn how to make the right decisions on your own. A bad sign of therapy is when your dependence on your therapy increases over time. Therapy is not about handing out solutions to problems; it is about teaching you to solve problems on your own.

If you are seeing a therapist and feel unsupported or feel you are not getting what you want from it, do not feel ashamed to reach out for something different. The goal is to help you change your behavior for the better. There are people out there that can give you the guidance you need. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. 

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