Therapy FAQ

What Exactly Is a Therapist and How Do They Help?

Seeking the support of a therapist can be invaluable in navigating the complexities of life and promoting overall mental well-being. There are several reasons individuals might benefit from therapy. Let’s take a look at how they help people just like you.

therapist william snyder By William Snyder, LPC
Female therapist sits on a couch.

Updated on May 20, 2024

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Therapists are skilled professionals who actively listen, empathize, and guide individuals, couples, and families through the intricate terrain of mental and emotional well-being. They create a haven where people can explore their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, fostering self-awareness and personal breakthroughs.

Here, we’ll look into the role of a therapist, including how they differ from other mental health professionals, their therapeutic approaches, and why you may consider seeing one.

What is a therapist?

A therapist is a trained mental health counselor who offers therapeutic support and guidance to individuals, couples, families, and groups facing various psychological challenges.

Therapists have the expertise to help individuals navigate their emotional, mental, and behavioral difficulties, promoting overall well-being and personal growth.

At the core of the therapist’s role is using verbal communication and interaction to treat mental conditions. Through their extensive training and experience, therapists employ a wide range of therapeutic techniques and approaches to address the unique needs of their clients.

They also work to create a safe and non-judgmental space where individuals can explore their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Therapists treat a diverse range of issues, including anxiety, depression, relationship problems, trauma, addiction, and more.

They employ evidence-based practices and tailor their interventions to suit the specific needs of each client. By fostering a trusting and collaborative relationship, therapists empower individuals to gain insight into their challenges, develop coping strategies, and work towards positive change.

Moreover, therapists recognize the interconnectedness of individuals within their social contexts. They facilitate open communication, promote understanding, help to resolve conflicts to strengthen relationships, and enhance overall family or group dynamics.

In short, therapists employ their specialized knowledge, skills, and empathetic approach to help individuals and communities improve their mental health and well-being. They play a crucial role in fostering personal growth, facilitating emotional healing, and empowering individuals to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.

How Does a Therapist Differ from Other Mental Health Professionals?

While various professionals contribute to the mental health field, therapists have a distinct role that sets them apart from other mental health providers.

Psychiatrists primarily specialize in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses and disorders primarily through the use of medication. They carry medical degrees and can prescribe psychotropic medications to alleviate symptoms and manage conditions.

Psychologists and psychotherapists, on the other hand, often conduct psychological assessments and research to evaluate cognitive and emotional functioning. They may administer tests, analyze results, and provide insights into an individual’s psychological state.

Therapists, through their training and experience, offer a safe and supportive environment for individuals, couples, families, and groups to address psychological difficulties.

They apply various therapeutic approaches and techniques to help clients gain insight, develop more positive coping strategies, and work towards personal growth and positive change.

What Does a Therapist Do?

A therapist focuses on actively listening and empathetically engaging with clients.

They encourage open and honest communication, helping individuals gain insight into their challenges and develop effective coping strategies. By applying various therapeutic techniques and approaches, therapists empower clients to work through emotional difficulties, improve relationships, and enhance overall well-being.

Therapists offer a safe and supportive environment for individuals, couples, families, and groups to address psychological difficulties.

What Therapists Don’t Do

It’s important to note what therapists do not do: Unlike psychiatrists, therapists do not prescribe medication.

While they may collaborate with psychiatrists or other medical professionals, therapists primarily rely on verbal communication and therapeutic interventions to support their clients.

Additionally, therapists do not make judgments about their clients’ choices or decisions.

They create a non-judgmental environment where individuals feel accepted and understood. Their role is to provide guidance, support, and facilitate personal exploration, without imposing their own values or opinions on clients.

Why Would You Need a Therapist?

Seeking the support of a therapist can be invaluable in navigating the complexities of life and promoting overall mental well-being. There are several reasons individuals might benefit from therapy. It all boils down to the importance of having a professional guide who can offer insight, facilitate personal growth, and help navigate challenging circumstances.

One major reason for seeking therapy is acute mental health crises and/or chronic mental conditions that are impacting your life. This could include self-harm, addiction, depression, and anxiety, as well as hundreds of other psychological conditions. Depending on your symptoms and their severity, the type of therapist and therapeutic approach you need may differ. However, those with diagnosed conditions or symptoms aren’t the only ones who can benefit from seeking therapy.

Moreover, therapy can serve as a proactive measure for personal growth and self-improvement. Even in the absence of acute distress, therapy can help individuals gain deeper self-awareness, enhance communication skills, and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

The decision to seek therapy is a personal one, driven by individual needs and circumstances. Whether you’re addressing mental health concerns, personal growth, or navigating life’s challenges, therapists offer valuable guidance, support, and expertise.

Why Should You Got to Therapy?

One prevalent reason for seeking therapy is to manage mental health conditions or substance abuse. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or other mental disorders, therapy can provide individuals with the tools and support necessary to navigate their symptoms. Therapists work collaboratively with clients to develop personalized strategies and techniques to alleviate distress, improve functioning, tackle any mental or behavioral disorders, and enhance overall well-being.

Life transitions can also prompt individuals to seek therapy. Significant changes such as career shifts, relocation, disabilities, or the loss of a loved one can cause emotional upheaval and uncertainty. Therapists provide guidance and support during life transitions to help you adapt to new circumstances, process grief, and find new meaning in these changes.

Relationship challenges often lead individuals and couples to seek marriage and family therapists. Whether it’s communication issues, conflicts, or difficulties in maintaining healthy relationships, therapists offer a safe space for open dialogue, mediation, and guidance. If you’re experiencing issues with a loved one, this may be the best option for you.

Unresolved trauma is yet another common reason for seeking therapy. Traumatic experiences can have a lasting impact on mental and emotional well-being. Therapists trained in trauma-focused approaches can help individuals process their trauma, reduce distressing symptoms, and promote healing and resilience.

Additionally, therapy works as a preventive measure. Just as we prioritize yearly check-ups for physical health, therapy can serve as a proactive approach to maintaining mental and emotional well-being. By equipping individuals with tools and coping mechanisms, therapy can enhance resilience and provide a foundation for navigating life’s ups and downs.

Benefits of Seeking Therapy

Seeking therapy can have a profound impact on individuals’ lives, leading to a wide range of positive outcomes and benefits. One of the primary benefits of therapy is improved mental health. Through the guidance of a therapist, individuals can learn effective strategies to manage symptoms, reduce distress, and improve overall psychological well-being.

Therapy also promotes self-awareness, allowing individuals to gain deeper insight into their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Through self-reflection and the therapeutic process, individuals can better understand themselves, their motivations, and their relationship patterns with others. This increased self-awareness empowers individuals to make positive changes and break negative patterns.

Just as we prioritize yearly check-ups for physical health, therapy can serve as a proactive approach to maintaining mental and emotional well-being.

Coping skills are another area where therapy can have a significant impact. Therapists provide individuals with practical tools and techniques to effectively manage stress, regulate emotions, and navigate challenging situations. These coping skills help individuals build resilience and improve their ability to handle life’s ups and downs.

Moreover, therapy can enhance relationships by improving communication, fostering empathy, and resolving conflicts. Therapists help individuals, couples, and families develop healthier relationship dynamics, creating stronger and more fulfilling connections. Statistics reveal that around 90% of people who engage in family therapy report better emotional health, while around 67% report improved physical health.

What Happens in Therapy?

Therapy involves a collaborative and confidential process. The specific dynamics of each session can vary depending on the type of treatment indicated by the client’s needs and goals. The therapist will use those needs and goals to tailor a unique treatment plan.

Therapists employ various types of therapy approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), talk therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and family therapy, among others. These approaches guide the overall framework and focus of the therapy sessions.

During therapy, clients are encouraged to openly express their thoughts, emotions, and experiences in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Therapists actively listen, provide empathetic support, and ask thought-provoking questions to help clients gain insight into their challenges and explore different perspectives.

Therapists employ a range of techniques and interventions to facilitate the therapeutic process. These can include reflective listening, guided imagery, journaling, role-playing, relaxation exercises, and more. The specific techniques employed depend on the therapeutic goals, the client’s preferences, and the therapist’s expertise.

The duration and frequency of therapy sessions can also vary depending on the individual’s needs and goals. Some may benefit from short-term therapy focused on specific issues, while others may need longer-term therapy to address deeper concerns or continue personal growth.

Choosing the Right Therapist

Just like any other social connection, there will be therapists who you click with, and others who you don’t. To guarantee a positive experience, several factors should be considered when selecting a therapist, including their qualifications, approach, specialization, and clinical experience.

When choosing a therapist, consider their qualifications and credentials. Look for therapists who have proper licensure and training in their specific field. Consider the therapist’s specialization as well, opting for a professional who’s experienced in your area of need.

Locating a Therapist Who’s Right for You

Through their expertise, compassion, and evidence-based approaches, therapists provide their clients with the tools to navigate their psychological concerns. Whether employing cognitive behavioral therapy to modify negative thought patterns, delving into the depths of the unconscious through psychodynamic therapy, or fostering mindfulness to promote present-moment awareness, therapists are instrumental in facilitating mental wellbeing.

If you’re ready to start your search for a therapist, visit Grow Therapy to find a mental health professional who suits your needs and accepts your insurance type.


  • A therapist is a professional trained in psychology or clinical social work to assist those with mental health issues. A therapist's exact approach depends upon their background, training and focus.

  • The biggest difference is focus. Therapists tend to explore more systems-based therapy. That is to mean that the therapist looks at different relationships of the person and how they interact with those systems. A psychologist is someone who focuses mostly on the client and their perceptions.

  • A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has a background in psychology. While psychiatrists are able to provide therapy, many focus mainly on psychotropic medication management rather than weekly therapeutic sessions.

  • The reason to see a therapist is varied but boils down to two main issues: chemical imbalance or situational difficulties. An example of a chemical imbalance would be life-long depression with no clear impetus or trigger. An example of situational difficulties would be adjusting to a new job, city, or perhaps a severe personal loss.

  • You can find comfort and support in a friend or family member. However, they are unable to give you an unbiased opinion of the choices that you make and how you conduct your life. A therapist will give you support when needed, but be unafraid of giving you opposing thoughts and a different way of looking at problems.

About the author
therapist william snyder William Snyder, LPC

William Snyder is a licensed professional counselor who works with adults experiencing symptoms such as anxiety, depressed mood, loss and grief, identity and self-concept difficulties, relationship problems, life-transition difficulties, and traumatic memories.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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