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What Is Therapy, Really?

psychotherapy-466987_960_720*Let’s begin answering this essential question: What is therapy, really?

By definition, psychotherapy is “The treatment of mental or emotional problems by the use of techniques that are tailored to the unique problems and backgrounds of the individual and that may include talk therapy, behavioral modification, medication, and other treatments.”

The goal of psychotherapy is to help resolve an individual’s mental and emotional problems and, at the same time, teach that individual how to attain the skills needed to deal with life on life’s terms.

Therapy is also an inner journey with the therapist as guide. With a good therapist assisting you, your emotions (what you feel) begin to get in sync with your intellect (what you know). When your head leads and your heart follows, the world becomes an easier, more meaningful place in which to live.

Therapy is not about merely creating an absence of negative feelings or, conversely, about creating happy feelings. It’s about helping you live a productive life and about helping you develop and sustain meaningful relationships. It’s also about learning and applying the skills you need in order to grow from life’s ups and downs.


You might ask, “Why should I spend all that time and money on therapy if there are still going to be downs when I am through?”

Do “ups and downs” mean that you might feel occasionally unhappy or dissatisfied after finishing therapy? Yes.

But with the right therapist (or mentor), you will begin to put your life situations in perspective, find ways to grow from the challenges you face, and learn how to seek and create authentic joy in your life.

Do “ups and downs” also mean that sometimes, after therapy, you might feel worried or afraid? Yes, again. But with the right kind of therapy, you will be able to put fears and worries in perspective, too.

You will even learn that negative feelings can actually be beneficial—they can help motivate you to change. Without physical pain, we won’t know if we have an illness and won’t recognize we need medication. Without emotional pain, we can’t identify if we should be making changes of a psycho-spiritual nature.

I’d like to assure you: therapy will not solve all your problems.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise—especially a psychotherapist. Solving all life’s problems is not even the goal of therapy.

What (effective) therapy can do is raise your level of awareness. It can give you the insight and motivation you need to take active steps so you can make good choices in your life. It can also help you make peace with the things you may be unable to change about your life (and yourself).

*This is not a complete answer, we plan to continue in another post.

This blog post contains information both original and adapted from Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On.



What Is Therapy, Really?

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. (2016). What Is Therapy, Really?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Jun 2016
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