Does Psychotherapy Really Work?
The research on outcomes of therapy are very impressive. To put it into perspective let’s compare the research demonstrating the effectiveness of taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart attack and stroke when compared to therapy outcomes. The effect size of taking an aspirin is .03 while the effect size of attending therapy is 1.00. Simply put that means that therapy is 27 times more effective than taking a daily aspirin. This is very significant, and actually parallels the effect size of cardiac bypass surgery. No one would question having cardiac bypass surgery when the doctors recommend it, and therapy is as effective as such an important medical procedure.
An Important Word for Couples
One of the biggest problems with couples is that the research shows they wait an average of 5 years too long to get professional help to work on their relationship when problems are evident. After 5 years the relationship is far more stressed, laden with toxic interaction patterns, demoralized, and often one person is already half-way out of the relationship (if not already in another). This poses significant problems to the couples therapy process making it more difficult to reverse the trend. Moral of the story, don’t wait to seek help!
How to Have Successful Therapy
Research reveals that one of the most important factors of therapy (if not the most important factor) that contributes to success is the quality of the therapeutic relationship between therapist and client. What does that mean? It means that it is very important that you find someone that you feel safe with, who understands and empathizes with you, is sensitive to your needs, and at the same time is able to challenge you to push yourself when necessary. For example, at times I have heard people say,
“I never thought I could sit with a male therapist because I never had a healthy relationship with a male, and yet by pushing myself to come in and try therapy with a male therapist I grew from the experience and experienced something new that helped improve my relationships with males in the rest of my life.”
For this reason therapy is something that is not always comfortable, but deep change does take some hard work at times, and at the end of the process, the growth that occurs is worth it.