The Four Keys To Good Therapy

There is a lot you can do to help yourself. Like using these materials, for example.
But sometimes all the emotions and stuck thinking mean you get in your own way.

Woody AllenThat’s where a good therapist can help.

But there are a lot of wrong ideas about therapy – like Woody Allen in his films going to see his therapist twice a week for decades. And some therapy can make people worse rather than better.

Knowing how good therapy works means you can help yourself better. And have a better idea how the right kind of therapist can help if you want.

Four Keys to Good Therapy

Regardless of the particular type, good therapy has some simple foundations.

There’s nothing wrong with you

There’s often a stigma about seeing a therapist as if it means something is ‘wrong with you’. That’s a terrible shame because one of the biggest problems driving people pleasing and codependence is a hidden belief that there is something wrong with you or about you that you have to make up for.

There is nothing wrong with you. I promise.

If you you wanted to get better at playing tennis, you might hire a tennis coach. A tennis coach can see how you play and help you learn more easily than you can do it for yourself.

A therapist is the same. A good therapist helps you learn and change.

You have emotional needs

If you don’t drink, you get thirsty. If you don’t eat, you get hungry. They are basic physical needs.

You also have basic emotional needs to

  • feel secure
  • have friends
  • experience appropriate challenge and accomplishment
  • have some control over your life
  • enjoy emotional intimacy where you can be accepted for who you are
  • be given status and respect
  • have a sense of meaning and purpose

When these needs are met, you become more resilient. When they aren’t, you become vulnerable to problems.

Think of it like eating a healthy diet. You could decide to start eating only chips. And you would be completely fine. For a while. But a few days later, you might get spots. You might begin to have less energy. And after eating only chips for a month, you would be more vulnerable to catching colds and bugs because your immune system would be working less well because of the lack of vitamins.

It’s the same with your emotional wellbeing. If you are not getting the right ’emotional vitamins’ in your life, then your emotional immune system works less well and you become vulnerable to problems. But the real problem would be your unhealthy emotional diet.

Look at the list above now. How would you rate each area out of ten? If you have some longstanding gaps, filling them will boost your emotional immune system and make you feel better about yourself, more resilient and more able to deal better with your life situations.

A good therapist helps you meet your basic emotional needs.

You need certain skills to meet your needs

Skills you need include

  • practical skills like assertiveness, negotiation, or dealing with aggressive people.
  • understandings and insights such as recognising that you have basic emotional needs.
  • inner skills like staying calm, breaking out of negative thinking, or overcoming your resistance to trying something new.

Not everyone is good at everything. You probably learned most of your emotional intelligence skills and attitudes from your parents and other teachers along the way, but, like anyone, you will have gaps.

If you end up in a difficult relationship, don’t like how people are treating you or how you are treating yourself and you feel stuck, that does mean something is wrong with you. It means you do not currently have the skills you need to deal with it. When you learn the skills and start applying them, things will get better.

A good therapist helps you learn skills so you can get better at meeting your needs.

Old stuck thoughts, feelings and habits can get in the way

If we were all rational like Dr. Spock in Star Trek, change would be easy. You would just decide to be different and it would happen. In reality, it doesn’t work like that. You might know something wasn’t your fault, but still feel as if it is. You might decide to ‘be positive’ but find helpless thoughts coming up anyway. You might know a traumatic event is over, but still feel bad about it now.

Good therapy also works with unconscious emotions, habits and thoughts so you can feel calmer, let go of unhelpful patterns.

Emotion locks up thinking. If you have difficult experiences in the past that are still bothering you now or intrusive thoughts that upset you, a good therapist can help you let go of the emotions attached to them. So you still know it happened or be aware of the thought, but it doesn’t bother so much you any more.

A good therapist helps you soothe harmful emotions and change unconscious patterns.

What Kind of Therapist Should I See?

Some styles of therapy can make conditions worse rather than better. P

Psychodynamic counselling, for example, (roughly the kind you see in Woody Allen films) in which you are encouraged to talk extensively about the past is known to make depression worse. Reflecting on past experiences can be helpful sometimes and up to a point. But the past is gone. Focussing on it too much, makes you feel helpless. The solutions will always lie in the present and the future.

Look out for whether a therapist is aiming to help in line with ‘the four keys to good therapy’ above.

A therapist is supposed to help you

  • feel better
  • think more clearly
  • get better at handling the situations in your life

The hundreds of styles of therapy can be confusing if you are not used to them. As an example, I am a solution-focused, cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist.

Solution focused

Instead of asking “What’s wrong with you?” a solution focused therapist asks “What do you want and how can I help you get there?”


Recognising that how you think affects how you feel and what you do. Learning to see your own thinking. Questioning what thoughts are true and helpful and what are part of the problem.


Recognising that to get different results, you need to do different things: learn new skills, engage in different activities, spend time with different people.
Hypnotherapist Recognising that emotions drive thinking. So even when you know you should feel one way, you just don’t. Hypnosis uses you ability to learn through patterns and metaphors to change how you feel about things.

If you’d like one to one support, read this first then contact me at the bottom of the page.

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