How to Succeed in Therapy

how to succeed in therapy by Sharon Martin, LCSW

Have you been in therapy? Are you wondering how to succeed in therapy? After nearly twenty years as a therapist, I’ve put together my top 5 tips for helping you achieve your therapy goals.

1. Effort

Like most things in life, you get out of therapy as much as you put into it. Effort seems like a given, but many people are actually ambivalent about making change. Have no misperceptions: Therapy is hard work. And things may get harder before they get easier. You need more than a desire for change. You need the courage to feel unpleasant feelings and behave in new ways and confront your short comings. You need to show up consistently and work hard between sessions.

2. Honesty

Honesty is a crucial part of any successful relationship. Your therapist can’t read  your mind or otherwise know when you’re being less than honest. But, of course, it’s generally a waste of time to bull shit him/her. Why make the effort to come to therapy only to minimize or tell half-truths? Your therapist will not judge you. We’ve heard a lot of stuff from a lot of people and we are empathic and respect confidentiality.

3. Be Open minded

Change means doing things in new ways. Come to therapy with an open mind. That doesn’t mean everything your therapist suggests will work for you, but it is important to try thinking and behaving differently. You may be surprised.

4. Choose the Right Therapist

Research consistently shows that one of the most important factors in whether therapy works, is the relationship between the client and therapist. So, who is the right therapist? He/she makes you feel comfortable. He/she listens attentively. He/she challenges you and holds you accountable. He/she shows you respect.

5. Patience

success in therapy san joseTherapy is not a quick fix and progress is not a straight line. Although, sometimes a few sessions are enough to jump start change, most people find change is slow process. Change requires practicing new patterns until they become automatic. Don’t give up too soon. You and your therapist should periodically review your progress and adjust your goals and strategies accordingly.



I love being a therapist. It is amazing to witness people heal and grow. I admire the courage it takes to come to therapy and work toward a happier life.

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.