People come to therapy to feel better and to overcome life challenges, but often without a clear sense of how that will happen. While everyone’s therapy will be unique depending on their histories and their needs, there are a few basic ways that therapy tends to promote well-being.

Therapy can help us learn concrete skills to cope with our emotions. This may include:

• Learning to better label what it is we are feeling and why
• Learning how to challenge negative assumptions that generate some of our painful feelings
• Learning how to break out of negative cycles of behavior that reinforce painful feelings.

As we are able to implement these coping skills, we start to feel more in control of our lives and more confident.

Therapy can also help us develop insight into how past and present difficulties have informed how we feel now. Sometimes this insight can provide relief in and of itself. Other times, it helps us know why certain experiences may be triggering, and how we can react constructively in those moments rather than reflexively in ways that may make us feel worse. Over time this allows us to develop greater skill in surmounting our challenges.

Last, therapy offers a chance to experience a new type of relationship that can help us feel more empowered and more able to navigate our social world. Many people enter therapy at least in part because they have experienced hurtful, invalidating behavior from significant figures in their life, as well as from negative social messaging. These experiences can cause people to feel both shame as well as anxiety about expressing their genuine feelings. Therapy provides a person with a relationship where they can practice sharing their feelings and can see that it is possible to have those feelings received in a caring fashion. With time this opening up can help diminish shame and also help people trust they can express themselves to others to get their needs met, rather than believing that they have to hide feelings.