Is it Possible to Make Real Change in Therapy?

The way to improve something in your life, is to identify it, work on it, practice, and keep working.

How is it possible to change a part of yourself in psychotherapy? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

The way someone changes a part of themselves in therapy is the same way they change or improve anything else in their life, they work on it.

Imagine if someone was serious about wanting to build more muscle and become stronger. They would likely start lifting weights, perhaps working with a trainer who could help teach them exercises to develop the weaker muscles, continue building the stronger ones, and even eventually helping them learn to work out on their own so this became an ongoing and sustainable practice for them. This is similar in many ways to how someone would improve an emotional and/or interpersonal aspect of their life.

How to improve in therapy:

1. Identify the area(s) that you are struggling with, and would like to improve in. Remember, that everyone has room for growth, this does not make you crazy or flawed, it makes you more self-aware, and braver than the average person.

2. If a therapist waved their magical therapy wand and the therapy “worked”, what would that look like? How would your experience or life be different? For example: Would you have less social anxiety? Would you be in a loving relationship? Would you feel more in control of your temper, and find productive outlets for frustration and anger?

3. Find a therapist who specializes in the areas you are interested in working on. This might include Googling therapists in your area, looking on your insurance website for someone in network, or asking people you know (friends, family members, primary care doctor, etc.) for referrals.

4. Call a few therapists, speak to them on the phone, and decide who you feel most comfortable talking with. Make an appointment to meet with the one you liked best, and assuming that you feel they are a good match for you, keep going to therapy regularly.

5. Every so often, it may be helpful to talk to your therapist about your initial goals and think about how your progress is going. Are there areas you haven’t addressed, that you may feel more comfortable bringing up at this time, now that you are getting used to therapy? Do you feel you are making progress in the areas you came to address? If not, talk about what feels challenging, or any other issues that come to mind for you. Progress is not a straight line, and this is a healthy part of the therapeutic process, not an indication that you’re “not doing it right”.

6. Keep at it! Remember, that the challenges you are going to therapy to address, most likely did not occur over night, therefore they won’t be fixed over night. Therapy can be interesting, fun, hard, scary, anxiety producing, and life-changing (among many other things). It is normal that sometimes you may “feel” like going, and other times you won’t want to. Making positive changes is not easy, and emotional resistance is a normal part of the process, especially as you move deeper into changing underlying emotional patterns.

The point is…

The way to improve something in your life, is to identify it, work on it, practice, and keep working. There isn’t a magical formula, besides a lot of practice and working with a skilled professional who can help you improve faster, be more effective, and teach you new skills.

This question originally appeared on Quora. More questions on Quora:

* Mental Health: How often is alcohol used to self medicate social anxiety?

* Psychotherapy: What is the best way to tell your therapist that you don't think you need therapy anymore?

* Psychology: How do you treat someone with NPD?

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