How psychotherapy works

There’s no single explanation for how psychotherapy works because each therapeutic relationship is unique and tailored to individual needs. But, at the heart of life-changing and life-saving psychotherapy is a strong therapeutic relationship.

Psychotherapy works. Thanks to numerous studies, we know that it can treat everything from depression to obsessive-compulsive behaviour, eating disorders to post-traumatic stress.

But it’s harder to show exactly how psychotherapy has this impact. Just what is it about psychotherapy that can be so transformative?

Psychotherapists from different approaches would give you different answers. But there are common reasons why psychotherapy can help you to heal from trauma, find better ways to cope, and gain deeper insight into the issues and challenges you face.


A strong relationship

Research shows that one of the most important aspects of psychotherapy is the relationship you form with your therapist. It’s a non-judgemental, confidential relationship that is tailored to be entirely unique to you. Your relationship with your therapist forms a new blueprint for your relationships with other people. It’s one in which you can feel heard, acknowledged and seen for who you really are. You can take this way of relating forwards into your other relationships so that they are healthier and more fulfilling.


The right therapist

To form a strong therapeutic relationship, it’s really important that you find the right therapist for you. There are thousands of psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors in our Find a Therapist directory. You can search by location, whether you’d like to meet in person or online, and the issue you want to work on. Arranging a first session to assess how you feel when you’re with the therapist can be really helpful.


A safe space

Boundaries are really important in psychotherapy as they help to create a safe space for you to explore your thoughts and feelings. An example of a boundary is that you have your session at the same time each week. Another could be the fact that your psychotherapist may not reveal much about themselves.

By providing consistency, they help to build trust – essential for the success of psychotherapy. Boundaries are especially important when other relationships in your life have lacked them.

Our psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors sign up to rigorous ethical standards which help set these boundaries and the foundation for your relationship with your therapist.


Processing trauma

Psychotherapy allows you to process trauma. This is when stressful events that you experience or witness make you feel unsafe, helpless or vulnerable. Your therapist will work with you to reflect on what has happened to you and how it might be affecting your life today. The focus is on compassion, listening and understanding, rather than making a diagnosis. This can help you to process trauma so it has a less negative impact on your mind and body.


New perspectives

You will talk about your deepest thoughts and feelings with someone who is trained to help you make sense of them – and can support you while you do it. This can allow you to see situations, relationships and yourself more clearly. It can open up new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. You become more conscious of things that have held you back, giving you the opportunity to make different choices and stop damaging patterns of behaviour. You can also find better ways to cope with feelings and fears.


Space to reflect

Your relationship with your therapist can put a magnifying glass on your life outside the therapy room. Your feelings, how you behave and what you say in therapy can help you to reflect on important relationships in your life. You can discover how your expectations of other people are influenced by your past. This can help you to see situations and people more objectively and change the way you think and behave to improve your mental and emotional wellbeing.


Find the right therapist for you by searching our Find a Therapist directory.

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