How Does Therapy Work and Help? - WOC Therapy

There are a vast number of opinions and stereotypes regarding therapy. If you are one of the people wondering does therapy work, then you came to the right place. Here, we will briefly explain how and why therapy works and answer some questions and address doubts you may have.

Common Misconceptions About Therapy

When talking about therapy, people tend to have misconceptions about whether or not it works, what it is, and who should try it. One of the most common misconceptions that it is for “crazy people.” This is entirely untrue. Therapy is for everybody, and it is important for mental health.

Another common misconception is that counseling is an easy process where all you have to do is sit back and talk about your feelings. This is also untrue. Talking about feelings and problems is a large part of counseling, but therapy also involves the use of many techniques and interventions that allow you to work through problems.

There is also a misconception that all therapists are equally suitable for every person. As women of color, we face a number of challenges in life and can fall victim to discrimination, racism, sexism, and violent crimes. Working with a therapist of color is recommended because they’re not only an expert in their field, but they also understand these challenges themselves, firsthand.

Differences Between Psychotherapist and Psychologist

There is a difference between psychologists and psychotherapists, and that difference is not only in the name. A psychotherapist has completed a specialization from a psychotherapy school, holds at least a master’s degree, and has practiced under the supervision of a licensed therapist until becoming licensed themselves. There are different types of psychotherapy schools and approaches, and all of them emphasize the relationship with the client.

Psychotherapy is a mental intervention used to help you to overcome emotional issues and other problems you may have, like various anxiety symptoms, depression, eating disorders, and others.

On the other hand, a psychologist has a degree in psychology and tends to specialize in assessment. The field of psychology has many areas, so most psychologists specialize in a specific area such as social psychology or behavioral psychology.

Does Therapy Require Taking Medication?

This depends on what kind of mental health professional you are seeing. If you are seeing a psychotherapist, the goal is to figure out what problems you have and try to address them by, for instance, changing your behavior (this would be the cognitive-behavioral approach). The main focus is on the relationship between the psychotherapist and the client, and you will work together to address the concerns you brought to therapy. If there are concerns about a potential mental health disorder that you wish to receive medication to treat, your psychotherapist will provide you a referral to a psychiatrist for further assessment and to obtain a prescription.

Girl talking to an African American counselor

There are many misconceptions about therapy, but what matters is that it helps

How Does Therapy Work?

Psychotherapy is a form of talk therapy. In order for it to be successful, you will need to find a therapist with whom you feel safe and comfortable. Trust is a crucial component of this process. For instance, as African American women, on top of normal day-to-day issues, there are societal issues that we also face in different environments such as microaggressions, racism, and discrimination. Thankfully, in the last couple of years, a large number of black therapists have emerged in the field to provide therapy for women of color and the number of African American counselors is growing each year. The same is true for many of therapists of color.

What Happens in the First Psychotherapy Session?

If you made the first therapy appointment with your therapist, you’re probably feeling a little anxious about the first session. That is perfectly normal, but there is nothing to be afraid of. You’re taking a tremendous step to improving your mental health and your overall quality of life. In the first session, your counselor will ask you to talk a little bit about yourself, what brought you to therapy, and if there are any specific issues you want to discuss. They will also ask you about your expectations of therapy and what your goals are. So before going to a session, think about what you want to share.

Talking About Feelings

As your therapy progresses, you will talk more and more about your feelings, which can sometimes be challenging. In order for this to be effective, you’ll need to grow more comfortable with exploring and uncovering your feelings, what triggers them, and how you cope with them. Although tough in the beginning, this is an important step to learning what changes you’ll need to make to feel better.

Change in Behavior

One major focus in psychotherapy that leads to improved wellbeing is to change old behavior patterns. In order to achieve this, your counselor will give you “homework” you will have to do in different situations. For example, if you have trouble speaking in public, your therapist may encourage you to take small steps in order to overcome this issue, like giving a speech in front of your friends and family. Most likely, the biggest change will be in your perception of yourself, reality, people in your life, and in your relationships with others.

African American family

Every change takes some time

Do Therapists Really Help?

You probably realize by now that therapy is personalized and the help it provides varies from person to person. If you set your goals right and you fully cooperate, these sessions really should help. In sessions, you will learn to question your negative thoughts and to change your behavior. You will be supported as you confront all the things you have been bottling up, which can be hard and challenging. There are vast numbers of studies that show that seeing a therapist is more effective for some illnesses than taking medication.

Pills falling from the bottle

When it comes to medication, the decision is entirely your own. 

How Long Does It Take for Therapy to Work?

The simple answer is that it will take some time. Changes never come quickly. But in the end, it will work. Even a couple of sessions can make you feel better because talking with someone can be a relief. A lot of people are going through the same problems as you. So in order for counseling to work, you’ll need to focus on the goals you set.

Consider Long-Term Therapy

If you’ve gone to a couple of sessions and you like how you are feeling, then consider long-term counseling. As we mentioned before, in order to really make an impact on your life and your behavior, therapy needs time.

Girl crying at counseling

Help will come in time, just be patient and open up

What Is the Success Rate of Therapy? What if I Don’t See Progress?

If you are wondering ‘does therapy actually work?’, you will be happy to hear that the success rate of counseling is over 75%. Also, the numerous studies show that psychotherapy is more effective than medication. According to the American Psychological Association, psychotherapy is effective for a variety of mental health issues, but if your counseling doesn’t help you, your therapist will then change your treatment and advise you to see other mental health professionals. For instance, some traumas, like the loss of the loved one, sexual assault, or rape, can’t always be overcome with counseling alone, but might also require medication.

Black female therapist

Psychotherapy is more useful than medication

Can Therapy Make You Worse?

In the beginning, when talking about feelings and getting to know each other, it can be emotional. Some issues mentioned in sessions may occupy your mind for days to come, and you may feel terrible. But these things are not supposed to be easy, and sometimes, it can feel like it’s getting worse before it get better.

Two girls sitting on a couch

It might get worse before it gets better

Talking to a Therapist Is the First Step to Taking Care of Your Mental Health

Now that you know how therapy works and are thinking about giving it a shot, the first thing you need to do is to congratulate yourself for taking this step. As a woman of color, talking about some issues with a male therapist may make you feel uncomfortable, so find a professional you can relate to, be it a black female therapist or another therapist of color. You are entitled to choose the person you wish to confide in, and if you don’t like your therapist, you can always find a different one. The vital thing in taking care of yourself and your health is that you take care of your mental health.

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