The Top 4 Reasons Therapy Works - Kimberly Thompson

I get it. The idea that your problems get better just by talking to a therapist sounds a little too fantastic. You prefer to rely on more concrete treatments, ranging from prescription medications to essential oils and acupuncture. At least those give you something you can touch. Besides, if talking to a therapist really helps, why not just talk to a friend? For free? I respect your need for a clear explanation, so here goes.

#1) Verbal processing rewrites the program in the mind-body system. In my recent series on the unconscious mind, I explained how the dynamic unconscious exists as a program written throughout the cells and tissues of the body. Everything you have ever experienced is encoded in your body and brain. Every time you remember something, that experience is brought out of storage and into the conscious mind. Telling your story is a deliberate act of re-experiencing what happened, and a deliberate choice to share it. It brings the experience back – how things looked, sounded, smelled, and physically felt. It brings back the thoughts, emotions, and perceptions that you had during that experience. That may sound really awful to people who have experienced trauma. But keep reading. When you tell your story, it’s sort of like opening a document on your computer. The story becomes available for editing. You can’t change what happened, but there are many other things you can change – the way you interpret what happened, the intensity of your feelings when you remember, and your sense of safety and mastery over the situation.

#2) A good psychotherapist provides a safe and nonjudgmental processing space. There are many reasons why people don’t tell their most difficult stories to their family and friends. One of the top reasons is that they fear judgment and rejection. It doesn’t matter if those fears are founded or not. The fear of being judge keeps the most important stories locked away. People with difficult stories also often fear that family or friends will try to fix the problem for them, which they don’t want. Other reasons can be – I’m not sure they can keep their mouths shut; what I went through will burden them; they won’t understand why this is such a problem for me. Sometimes a family member is the problem, and it would just feel like gossip to tell others about it.

#3) A therapist with the right experience is an expert guide. I work with women and children, and especially new mothers, all the time. I am familiar with how your life story affects your life now. Yet, I am also trained to focus on you as an individual, not just as a member of a group. I have spent years developing the skills to ask the right questions, reserve judgment, and encourage women to speak their truth in a liberating way. I also spent years learning methods that go beyond processing – methods that teach you to cope with stress better, to release the guilt and shame, and to care for yourself as much as you care for others.

#4) You don’t have a social obligation to your therapist. It’s a therapeutic relationship, not a social one. This is actually why paying a professional fee is crucial – it’s important even if your therapist isn’t interested in making a living at this. Every relationship is give-and-take, which makes things get very complicated when you tell friends or family your deepest secrets. You have to take care of their feelings and you have to manage their reactions. Not so in therapy. You pay the fee, you walk away. It’s your therapist’s responsibility to take care of her own feelings and reactions (probably with the help of her own therapist). This is why psychotherapists are even more careful than medical professionals about “potentially harmful dual relationships.” You should not be burdened with responsibility for your therapist; you should not carry any sort of obligation to her beyond respect and courtesy. Most therapists I know offer some reduced-fee or pro-bono sessions, which fulfill their ethical obligations to give back to the community. In those situations, it’s not a bad idea to discuss how you will discharge your obligation to your therapist. I’m guessing that she will say that you will do this when you attend sessions faithfully, respect her practice policies (cancellation, communication, etc.), and participate fully in therapy.

Psychotherapy is an authentic method of healing based on these principles of human nature: We are social beings that need one another; we make sense of our world through language, especially the spoken word; we incur debt to others when we receive help and discharge it when we give help; and, we will usually avoid being open with others if we are afraid of shame and judgment. When you leave your therapist’s office you may not have something you can hold in your hand, but you will have something you can hold in your mind and your soul.


I am Dr. Kimberly Thompson, a licensed psychologist living and working in Lubbock, TX. I work exclusively with women and their children, to help them develop vibrant emotional, behavioral, and relationship health. My particular expertise is with women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, but I enjoy working with women throughout their life cycle. If you live within driving distance of Lubbock, you can work with me in person. If you live elsewhere in Texas, you can work with me through online therapy. Simply call my office at (806) 224-0200 and request an initial phone consultation. You can also send a secure message directly from my website. Subscribers to The Mommy Mentor website receive blog posts as they are released, as well as newsletters and important announcements. I am committed to producing quality content that helps mothers and their families live well.