8 Benefits of Therapy

Therapy is a general term for a treatment for a physical or mental health challenge. When it comes to mental health, therapy, also known as talk therapy or psychotherapy, is a method mental health professionals use to assess, diagnose, and treat concerns related to emotions, thinking, and behavior patterns. It involves talking with a therapist or other mental health professional, such as a psychologist, and may include learning specific skills or coping strategies.

Nearly 10% of American adults receive this type of therapy or counseling per year.

What Is Mental Health?

Mental health is psychological, emotional, behavioral, and social well-being, including thoughts, feelings, actions, and interactions with others.

Someone may be interested in mental health therapy to:

  • Help with a challenging life event or situation
  • Address symptoms like excessive sadness, guilt, or anger
  • Treat a mental health condition like depression
  • Work on relationship challenges

This article will discuss the different types of therapy, the benefits of attending therapy, who can benefit from it, and some tips for finding the right therapist for you.

A woman sitting on a sofa talking to a therapist

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Benefits of Therapy

Mental health therapy is helpful for about 75% of people who try it. People with mental health conditions who attend therapy often see improvements in their symptoms and quality of life. There are many benefits of therapy, and they are not limited to people with mental health conditions. Anyone who needs guidance or a listening ear during a stressful life event can benefit from therapy.

Potential benefits of therapy include:

  1. Better communication skills
  2. Better sleep
  3. Increased happiness and life satisfaction
  4. Feelings of empowerment; improved mental function and productivity; fewer missed days from school or work
  5. Improved relationships and interactions with other people
  6. Improved physical wellbeing, such as lower blood pressure or reduction in chronic pain
  7. Development of skills for coping with daily life challenges and stress
  8. Improved management of behavioral health challenges, such as reducing or quitting smoking or drinking alcohol

Mental Health Therapy Options

Mental health therapy can be conducted in a variety of settings, including:

  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Couples therapy
  • Group therapy

These types are determined by the people who participate, so individual therapy is for one person and a mental health professional, while couples therapy is for intimate partners and a mental health professional.

However, that doesn't mean the benefits of therapy are limited to the people who participate. For example, one person can go to individual therapy and both intimate partners can benefit from improved communication and relationship interactions. Additionally, an individual who goes to therapy and experiences a decrease in missed days from work may have coworkers who benefit.

Therapy vs. Counseling

Therapy and counseling are terms that are often confused, and they are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are different. Therapy tends to be more focused on mental health conditions or behavioral, thought, or emotional patterns. Counseling focuses on specific issues a person is dealing with, such as difficulty getting along with a partner or family member.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy is talk therapy between one person and a mental health professional. This allows the treatment to be customized to the needs of that person. It is also sometimes called dyadic therapy or individual psychotherapy. There are various types of individual therapy, including:

Family Therapy

Family therapy is talk therapy that involves a mental health professional and the whole family, each family member individually, or sometimes groups of family members. For example, a mental health professional may meet with the entire family together, then with each parent and child individually, and then with one parent and child or two siblings.

This type of therapy focuses on family relationships and patterns of behaviors. It is also sometimes called marriage and family therapy or couples and family therapy.

Couples Therapy

Couples therapy is talk therapy with a mental health professional and two partners in a committed relationship. This type of therapy involves both partners receiving therapy together at the same time by the same mental health professional, though the partners may also have sessions with the mental health professional individually. When the couple is married, it may be called marital therapy.

The challenges addressed with couples therapy are things that impact both partners or their relationships, such as:

  • Communication styles or issues; disagreements
  • Parenting styles or conflicts; family concerns
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Behavioral conflicts such as drinking, smoking, gambling, infidelity, or anger management
  • Mental health condition of one or both people
  • Life transitions such as unemployment or new employment, moving to a new place, buying a home, having a child, or planning for the future
  • Emotional disconnect within the relationship

Group Therapy

Group therapy is talk therapy with at least two people plus at least one mental health professional. The people receiving the therapy are able to interact with one another, with the guidance and support of the mental health professional, so they can share in the experience. It is also sometimes called group psychotherapy.

A support group is a type of group therapy where the people receiving the therapy are facing the same challenge.

Who Needs Therapy?

Different types of therapy are available to people with physical or mental health challenges. Talk therapy is for anyone with a mental, emotional, or behavioral challenge. However, people without these challenges may benefit from therapy as well. Therapy is also for people looking for support with daily life challenges, experiencing stressful life events such as the death of a loved one, or facing relationship challenges.

Therapy can help with:

  • Abuse, trauma, or neglect
  • Behavioral challenges
  • Daily life challenges
  • Emotional challenges
  • Life transitions or changes
  • Mental health conditions
  • Relationship challenges
  • Stressful life events

Other Therapy Types

In addition to talk therapy, there are many other types of therapy that are used to treat health challenges. Talk therapy may be used alone or along with another type of therapy. For example, talk therapy is often used with medications, or drug therapy, to treat mental health conditions.

Other types of therapy include:

  • Drug therapy: This is the use of medications or substances, prescription or over-the-counter, to treat, prevent, diagnose, or improve symptoms of physical or mental health challenges. It can be used alone or along with other therapy options. For example, people who have mental health conditions such as depression may be treated with talk therapy and medications such as antidepressants at the same time.
  • Animal therapy: Animal therapy is the use of animals to treat health conditions. It has been shown effective in both physical and mental health challenges such as high blood pressure and anxiety. This type of therapy can be used along with talk therapy and other medical treatments. It is also called animal-assisted therapy.
  • Creative therapy: This is the use of creative and artistic activities with a therapist to communicate and express feelings and emotions. It can be used alone or as part of a care plan along with other treatment options. Creative therapy has been found to be beneficial in improving physical and mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, pain, and stress. Types of creative therapy include music, art, dance, or drama therapy.
  • Complementary therapy: Complementary therapy is any physical or mental health treatment option that is not part of usual Western medical practice but is used with conventional medicine. It is only considered complementary therapy when used together with treatments such as medications and surgeries when needed. When non-mainstream treatments are used instead of conventional medical treatments, it is called alternative therapy.

Types of Complementary Therapies

Some examples of complementary therapy include:

Side Effects

The side effects of therapy depend on the type of therapy. Talk therapy side effects are generally mental or emotional symptoms, relationship challenges, or negative life changes.

Side effects of talk therapy may include:

  • Increase in mental health symptoms such as anxiety
  • Changes in life such as divorce or job loss
  • Difficulty with life challenges

However, this is relatively rare, and mental health professionals are trained to recognize and make changes as needed when side effects occur, so things improve before they escalate. For example, a couple in therapy may experience an increase in relationship conflict with one talk therapy method, which would prompt the mental health professional to shift to a different method long before escalation to divorce.

How to Find a Therapist

Therapy providers can be found by asking primary care and other healthcare providers for referrals, checking with insurance providers to see who is covered by plans, and by using online search tools. It is important to make sure the therapy provider is qualified to treat the concern to be addressed with the therapy.

Even when a healthcare provider does treat the specific concern, who you choose to work with is a personal decision. The person receiving therapy must feel comfortable with and trust the healthcare provider.


In mental health, therapy is a conversation-based intervention between a healthcare provider and a person or people receiving the treatment. It is also called talk therapy or psychotherapy.

Benefits of therapy can be mental or emotional, physical, behavioral, or related to relationships and life. Some common benefits of therapy include less pain, better sleep, improved communication, less stress, and increased happiness.

You have different options when attending mental health therapy, including attending as an individual, couple, family, or group. However, the benefits of the therapy are not limited to the people receiving the therapy.

Therapy options can be used alone or combined with other treatments.

A Word From Verywell

From minor, daily struggles like traffic or loud neighbors to major, stressful events such as the death of a loved one or severe mental health conditions, life comes with challenges. Therapy is a conversation-based treatment that can help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health symptoms or having a hard time coping with life challenges, support is available. Contact a healthcare provider such as a primary care practitioner or psychologist to see if therapy is a good option for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does therapy cost?

    The cost of therapy depends on the healthcare provider, their credentials, and the region where they are located. It can range from $65 to $500 per hour, or more, but the average rate is about $100 to $200 per hour.

  • When should you start therapy?

    Therapy can be started as soon as a challenge, such as a stressful life event, transition, or mental health symptom, is identified. Generally, the earlier therapy is started, the better.

  • What do you talk about in therapy?

    The topics discussed in therapy depend on the reason for starting the treatment, the methods used by the healthcare provider, and what is needed or helpful for the person receiving the therapy. Some common examples include past struggles, current challenges, future goals, thought patterns, behaviors, and relationships.

14 Sources
Verywell Health 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.
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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental health treatment among adults: United States, 2019.

  3. American Psychological Association. Understanding psychotherapy and how it works.

  4. American Psychiatric Association. What is psychotherapy?

  5. American Psychological Association. Individual therapy.

  6. American Psychological Association. Family therapy.

  7. American Psychological Association. Couples therapy.

  8. American Psychological Association. Group therapy.

  9. National Cancer Institute. Drug therapy.

  10. UCLA Health. Animal-assisted therapy research.

  11. University of Minnesota. Creative therapies.

  12. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Complementary, alternative, or integrative health: what's in a name?

  13. Linden M, Schermuly-Haupt ML. Definition, assessment and rate of psychotherapy side effects. World Psychiatry. 2014;13(3):306-309. doi:10.1002/wps.20153

  14. American Psychological Association. How do I find a good therapist?

By Ashley Olivine, Ph.D., MPH
Dr. Ashley Olivine is a health psychologist and public health professional with over a decade of experience serving clients in the clinical setting and private practice. She has also researched a wide variety psychology and public health topics such as the management of health risk factors, chronic illness, maternal and child wellbeing, and child development.