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5 Essential Ingredients Of Successful Therapy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASuccessful therapy, that is, therapy that effectively changes how you live your life, must contain five fundamental ingredients:

1. The therapist must be a motivated, experienced professional.

2. The therapist must use evidence-based treatments; that is, proven methods and techniques.

3. Therapy must be carried out in a reasonable treatment time frame.

4. The therapist’s per-hour fee and the entire cost of the course of treatment must be fair and reasonable.

5. The patient must be a motivated patient.

It is important to know that while all the above ingredients must be present, they can be present in varying proportions. So, you may decide that a therapist who costs a bit more than average, but who is highly motivated and experienced, might be a better choice for you than a therapist who costs less but doesn’t have as much experience, or vice versa.

It is also important to note that just because a therapist charges more, this does not necessarily mean that he is a better therapist. (The above is excerpted from Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On).

Dedication, Expertise, And Compassion

A motivated, experienced professional has education, training and experience and is dedicated to helping their clients. They should stay current, and be open and committed to improving their skills.

The Proof Is In The Progress

Using proven-methods is also important. While a good therapist will use proven-methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, they will generally use these methods in conjunction with their own, creating a blend that works for them and most important, for their clients.

Therapy Is Not Forever

A reasonable treatment time-frame is one which is appropriate for the client and can be highly individual. If you do not have a serious mental illness and have been in therapy for more than a year, you might want to consider investigating other therapists or other ways to address your concerns.

Most therapists probably agree: Today too many clients are stuck in go-nowhere therapy for too long. Having a treatment plan* with set goals can help you and your therapist stick to a reasonable treatment time-frame. Therapy is not an end in itself, it is there to help you when you need it, so you can live your life fully.

Therapy Costs Money

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that therapists are paid professionals and though most chose this work because of their interest and dedication, they still earn their living from their work. Whether you are paying out of pocket or using your limited insurance funds to pay for therapy, therapy should cost as fair a price as possible. That’s another reason why a treatment time-frame should be as brief as possible while still being effective.

If you have a mental illness that may require long-term therapy and treatment, try and find a patient advocate (it could be a friend or family member, a mentor, or a paid advocate) to help you better manage the costs of therapy.

Motivation Is (Nearly) Everything

The process of therapy embodies this truism: You get back what you put into it. Yes, the four factors above should be in place, but you need to step in to make it all work. But don’t worry, if you’re finding it hard to stay on track–a good therapist will help you stay motivated. That’s also part of a therapist’s job.

Learn more about what it takes to succeed in therapy at Therapy Soup.

* Learn more about the 7 basics of the treatment plan.


5 Essential Ingredients Of Successful Therapy

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2015). 5 Essential Ingredients Of Successful Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Feb 2015
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