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Risks and Benefits of Therapy

Therapy has potential risks and rewards and your therapist should discuss these with you as part of the informed consent process. It is important that you understand the risks and benefits (as well as your rights and responsibilities as a client in counseling) before embarking on treatment because you will be asked to work in partnership with me to determine how we approach your treatment.


The process of therapy may cause you to experience uncomfortable or painful feelings, such as sadness, guilt, anxiety, anger, or frustration. Counseling may bring up painful memories. It might disrupt relationships. For example, if you want to work on improving your boundaries, this is likely to upset people who are used to ignoring your boundaries. Therapy can involve you sharing information which causes you to feel vulnerable. For example, it might be scary to share critical thoughts you have about yourself; in the past, there may have been someone in your life who used that self-disclosure against you instead of holding that for you safely. Another example is that you might hate to cry in front of other people and you may hate that you find yourself crying in therapy. Please know that if this describes you, that you are honoring me by sharing those deep feelings and I will honor you for taking the risk.

Often times, things get worse before they improve. Because therapy often means focusing on and talking about unpleasant or painful issues, in the near-term therapy can cause an increase in symptoms. Focusing on the painful issue or finding that your problem seems to be worsening at that time can be upsetting to you as a client. Or if you see for the first time that you played a role in the problem, this could be upsetting. These feelings should be only temporary and we will measure where you are at each week so that we can see clearly how therapy is going.

Therapy, to be successful, will require change of some kind. It might a change in how some of your thinking is (such as from “black and white” thinking to being able to see shades of gray in between) or in some of your behaviors (in anxiety, you might eventually be asked to do the very thing that scares you). Change is uncomfortable and all change involves loss, even if it is good change. For example, if you lose 20 pounds, you are likely excited about your new body shape. But as a result of your changes that helped you achieve that weight loss, you now need to buy new clothes. And in order to lose that weight, you may have found that you had to give up eating certain things and had to exercise daily (and you hate exercise). In this case, you lost eating some foods and lost being comfortable on the couch after work because you took up jogging instead. So, even good change can involve loss.

Therapy is not free and there is no guarantee that it will work or how quickly it will work. Although the American Psychological Association states “the average person who engages in psychotherapy is better off by the end of treatment than 80 percent of those who don’t receive treatment at all” you might be one of the exceptions to this finding. By measuring where you are at each session, we will minimize this risk. Please know that a lack of success with one therapist does not mean you will not be successful with a different therapist; the relationship between counselor and client is a key component of the outcome. Some therapist/client “fits” are better than others. You may get very different results with two different therapists. I will not accept a client I do not believe I can help but if we do find that you are not making the progress we want, I will help you to find another therapist who may end up being a better fit for you.


As mentioned above, according to the American Psychological Association, “the average person who engages in psychotherapy is better off by the end of treatment than 80 percent of those who don’t receive treatment at all.”  Those are pretty strong odds in your favor. I maximize this for my clients by measuring where you are at each session so that we can act quickly to minimize time spent on therapeutic efforts that aren’t helping and to focus on those that are helping. Additionally, I utilize Feedback Informed Therapy which has been shown to increase the effectiveness of therapy.

Research has found that simply scheduling the first appointment often leads to an improvement in your issue. Why is this? It is likely due to relief or hope. If you have been debating for some time whether or not to pick up the phone and make the appointment, it can be a relief to finally have decided to do it and to have the appointment. It can be a relief and provide hope to know that in so many days you will meet the therapist and begin addressing your issue.

Another benefit of therapy is having someone who is on your side. Even if I am gently challenging you about a particular thing, I am doing it because I want you to have success in therapy and make the changes you are seeking in therapy. Traditionally, therapy has often focused on deficits and pathology but I like to focus on my clients’ strengths. Often times, I can see strengths that my clients don’t see in themselves. One possible benefit of therapy, then, is discovering new strengths and positive aspects of yourself that you had but were unaware of and perhaps in developing those even further.

Possible benefits often depend on the issue you are working with but may include:

  • improved relationships
  • improved communication skills
  • improved coping skills (stress relief)
  • clearer personal goals
  • Ability to set boundaries
  • More confidence
  • Coming to terms with past experiences
  • Decreased levels of depression and anxiety
  • A caring, interested listener focused on helping you
  • Increased self-acceptance

If you are ready to give therapy a try, please give me a call at (816) 226-4678 and we’ll get an appointment set up quickly.

For more information about the characteristics of effective therapists, including the role of client-counselor “fit” or therapeutic alliance and feedback informed therapy, see these previous blog posts:

Part 1: What Makes a Therapist Effective?

Part 2: What Makes a Therapist Effective?

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