If you are considering starting therapy, you may be wondering, “what makes therapy work?” You may be struggling with a particularly painful issue and hoping to find relief or change quickly. The question of what makes therapy successful is a complex one, and psychotherapists and psychology researchers have spent a great deal of time trying to find answers. Therapeutic progress can be difficult to measure quantitatively, and the myriad factors that contribute to therapy can often be tricky to identify.
In spite of the intricacies of this topic, researchers have been able to isolate the following factors as contributors to therapeutic progress:
- Researcher Michael Lambert conducted a meta-analysis of hundreds of studies that addressed the effectiveness of therapy. In his study, he found that about 40% of therapeutic success is dependent on what the client brings to therapy. These factors include the client’s willingness to engage in therapy, their own personal strengths, and their external and internal support systems.
- Lambert also noted that clients’ hopefulness that therapy would help improve their situation accounts for 15% of progress.
- Another researcher noted that clients who have the ability to talk about their experience in the moment (for example, noticing and reporting that their heart is racing as they describe something to the therapist) are far more likely to feel that therapy has been effective.
- Lambert determined that approximately 30% of therapeutic progress can be attributed to the relationship that develops between the therapist and client. Other studies have put this figure as high as 60% or even 80%.
- Lambert’s studies found that only 8-15% of progress was dependent on the therapeutic orientation or model (for example, cognitive-behavioral, Jungian, psychoanalytical, etc.) that the therapist employed. This finding was particularly interesting, as there is always a healthy debate in the field of psychology as to which orientation is the most effective.
So what does this all mean for you as a potential client? There are several important take-aways:
- It is vital to find a therapist with whom you can build a good relationship. You need to find a therapist you feel comfortable with and connected to. You want to be able to trust your therapist and feel safe opening up to them. You want to get a sense that your therapist truly cares about you. While developing a relationship takes time, trust your gut or intuition when you meet a potential therapist.
- Look for a therapist who you think would be able to take your feedback into consideration. It is important to have a therapist who demonstrates an ability to grow with you.
- Do not spend too much time worrying about the therapist’s orientation. Instead, try to look for a therapist whose approach resonates with you on a personal level.
- Seek out a therapist whose approach emphasizes your personal strengths and resources. You want someone who will help you identify and appreciate the assets that you already have.
- As difficult as your situation may be, try to notice if you still have even the tiniest bit of hope that things can improve. That very sense of hope may help contribute to the success of your therapy.
To find out if I might be a good match as your therapist, call (415) 658-5738 or visit my Appointments page to schedule a consultation.