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Will therapy work even if you don’t believe in it?

Posted Jul 01 2013 5:00am

What is therapy and how do you know if it will work for you?

Counseling and Therapy

Counseling and Therapy

Interesting question, this came in as a search term and that always gets me thinking about what was on the reader mind and what did they want to find. As a therapist I believe that therapy works, sometimes, for some people, but other times people tell me that they went for therapy and it did not help them.

Why does therapy sometimes help and sometimes not? Maybe this depends on what therapy really is. I think there are ways it works and ways it doesn’t.

Let’s try some similar questions and see if it helps understand this dilemma.

Does gravity work if you do not believe in it? Most of us would say a conclusive yes; gravity always works, at least here on planet earth. So if therapy is a force that produces change yes it should always work regardless of whether you think it will or not.

Do cars work whether you believe in them or not? If you just hang around them, but because you do not believe in cars, you never get in one, then no for you they will not work.

If you think that therapy is a process of change; then for it to work you will need to do some work.  If you do not do the work, your disbelief will prevent the process from taking you anywhere. Disbelief will keep you stuck where you are.

We know that you do not have to be a therapist for what you to do to be therapeutic. We even talk about therapeutic environments. So if you have supportive friends who can listen to you and help you think and talk things out, that might be therapeutic.

The most effective therapy occurs when you believe that the therapist wants to help you and you feel comfortable talking about your problems. The short answer is that counseling works best if the client believes it will. But like gravity, counseling or therapy can work for you if you just temporarily suspend your disbelief and give it a try. 

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page . For information about my other writing work beyond this blog there is also a Facebook authors page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at

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