Therapy center


A one-stop resource guide for all things therapy

What Is Therapy?

Therapy, also known as psychotherapy or talk therapy, refers to the techniques that help people change behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that cause problems or distress. It is an umbrella term that describes treating mental disorders and mental distress through verbal and psychological techniques.

Problems alleviated by therapy can include difficulties in dealing with loss, stress at home or work, working through trauma, and coping with symptoms of specific mental conditions.

Does Therapy Work?

Research shows that therapy can help reduce depression, anxiety, eating disorder symptoms and help those struggling with addiction. In fact, studies show about 75 percent of people who enter psychotherapy show some benefit from it. Many studies have also shown combined treatment for depression (psychotherapy with medication) to have many benefits over single-modality treatment.

Having a space to process and talk through your experience and the happenings of your life can be transformative. While many people often rely on their friends, family or significant others for support, there are disadvantages in doing so exclusively.

Whether you want to address a specific mental health issue or look for general ways to improve yourself, talk therapy could be an effective strategy to meet your goals.

Do I Need Therapy?

You don’t need to be dealing with a clinically diagnosed mental health condition to try therapy—anyone can benefit from seeking support to manage their mental health. If stressors are interfering with your day-to-day, whether at home, work, and/or in your interpersonal relationships, it may be time to see a therapist.

How Much Does Therapy Cost?

Therapy may cost, on average, anywhere between $60-$200 per hour, though costs vary depending on a number of factors. Online providers tend to be on the lower end of that range at $60 to $90 per week, while in-person therapy sessions will usually cost between $100 and $200. Suffice to say, cost can be a massive barrier to treatment.

A Verywell Mind survey showed that while 8 in 10 Americans in therapy say it's a good investment, about half of people in therapy are concerned about their ability to pay for it long-term. While online therapy provides a more affordable option, it is still hundreds of dollars per month that many people can't afford if treatment is not covered by insurance.

How Does Therapy Work?

When you've found a provider you might be interested in working with, you will follow up with them to schedule a consultation. The initial visit (also referred to as an intake session) is a period for you and your therapist to get to know each other and get an idea of how to proceed.

During the first session, your therapist may ask you:

  • What are your symptoms?
  • What brought you to therapy?
  • What might make your life better?
  • Some questions about your history, including your childhood, education, relationships (family, romantic, friends), your current living situation, and your career
  • What are your goals for treatment?

Keep in mind that psychotherapy usually requires multiple visits, so don't expect any instant solutions to your problems the first day. Therapy is about helping you learn about yourself and equipping you with life-long solutions and not a quick fix.

You and your therapist should also come to an agreement about the length of your treatment, methods to be employed, and ins and outs of patient confidentiality. Your therapist will record these details to develop a treatment plan. A treatment plan in therapy serves as a blueprint to refer back on to help guide future sessions and ensure you're getting the most out of your treatment. Your therapist can update your treatment plan as needed according to your needs.

Your next visits will be more therapeutic in nature. For example, in your second session, you may explore a specific symptom, problem, or past trauma you mentioned in the first session.

How Long Does Therapy Take?

Depending on your issue and therapy goals, therapy can last a few sessions or several months or years. While you likely want to know how long it's going to take to "feel better," there's no simple answer. It's very individualized.

In addition, some insurance plans only cover a set number of sessions in a given year, so you may need to factor in those limitations and/or work with your therapist to come up with a payment plan.

How to Get Started With Therapy

First, congratulate yourself for taking the first step toward your mental health treatment journey (it's a big one). Starting therapy is a personal decision, so it's important to decide which environment and schedule may work best for you. For example, you might want to consider online therapy if you prefer the convenience of meeting with your therapist over video or via a phone call in the comfort of your own home.

Find a Therapist

The next step is to find a provider you'd like to work with. There are a number of different places where you can begin looking for a therapist. Some options include:

  • Insurance directory: Check with your health insurance provider to see if they have a directory of therapists who accept your insurance.
  • Recommendations from friends: Friends who have had great experiences with a particular therapist can be a great resource when you are looking for a treatment provider.
  • Referrals from your doctor: Your primary care provider can also be an excellent place to start your search.
  • Mental health organizations: Many mental health organizations, including Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and the American Psychological Association, maintain therapist directories listing professionals who are qualified to treat different conditions.
  • Online therapist directories: You can also do an online search to find therapist directories where you can search based on education, inclusivitytreatment specialty, experience, and geographic location. This year, we ranked GoodTherapy as our best online therapy directory.
  • Online therapy platforms: Many online sites also ask you to provide some basic information on what you’d like to address in therapy, such as anxiety, parenting issues, or substance use. Then, they will give you several therapists to choose from.

Get Help Now

We've tried, tested, and written unbiased reviews of the best online therapy programs including Talkspace, Betterhelp, and Regain. Find out which option is the best for you.

Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Therapist

Given how important your relationship with your therapist is to your well-being, some factors you might consider when looking for a therapist include:

  • Gender: Do you think you'd feel more comfortable with a man, woman, or nonbinary person?
  • Age: Do you want to work with someone older, younger, or around your age?
  • Religion: Does it matter to you if the therapist has a particular religious affiliation?
  • Race: Would you prefer to work with someone of the same race or has a personal understanding of your culture?
  • Cultural Competence: Is it important to have a therapist who recognizes and respects the beliefs of your unique identity? This can include comfort in addressing issues related to gender identity, disabilities, ethnic identity, and nuances in any of the above categories.

Having the right therapist can literally change your life for the better, so do your diligence to find the best fit.

How Do I Change Therapists?

To begin, let your current therapist know that you are searching for a new provider. You don’t owe them an explanation, but being honest about why you’re changing therapists can help them support you in this process (they may even provide you with referrals). You can then move on to finding a new therapist in the same way you found your current one—whether through your insurance provider, recommendations from friends and family, or doing some research online.

Techniques and Types of Therapy

Depending on the condition being treated, there are many different approaches to talk therapy catered to the individual's unique needs. The type of approach may also depend on the expertise of the mental health professional. Learn more about some of them below.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy that emphasizes acceptance of negative thoughts, feelings, symptoms, or circumstances. It also encourages increased commitment to healthy, constructive activities that uphold your values or goals. 

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy adopts a number of techniques to help with identifying and changing negative or self-destructive behaviors in patients.

Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy looks to help one become aware of and change negative and dysfunctional ways of thinking. By modifying these thoughts, patients can change how they feel and act in healthier ways. It is often combined with behavioral approaches in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Couples Therapy

Couples therapy is a form of psychotherapy that can help you and your partner at any stage of your relationship regardless of marital status, age, race, faith, or sexual orientation. If you are having relationship difficulties, you can seek couples therapy to help improve your relationship.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a modified type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Its main goals are to teach people how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to cope with distress, regulate their emotions, and improve their relationships with others.

EMDR Therapy

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a psychotherapy that uses rhythmic left-right (bilateral) stimulation to help people recover from trauma or other distressing life experiences. 

Family Therapy

Family therapy is a type of treatment designed to help with issues that specifically affect families' mental health and functioning. It can help individual family members build stronger relationships, improve communication, and manage conflicts within the family system.

Illustration by Ellen Lindner

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. APA. Understanding Psychotherapy and How It Works.

  2. Luborsky L, Singer B, Luborsky L. Comparative studies of psychotherapies. Is it true that “everywon has one and all must have prizes”? Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1975;32(8):995-1008.