How Therapy Works


Whether you are considering therapy for the first time
or a long-time therapy client, you may have some questions about
what it is, how it works, and what benefits it can offer you.

On this page, we will try to answer some of these questions
and help you understand how therapy can help
you to improve your mental health and well-being.

What is Therapy?

Therapy, also known as psychotherapy,
counselling, or talk therapy,
is a process of meeting with
a licensed mental health professional
who is trained to help you achieve your goals.
Most goals are related to enhancing wellbeing, improving relationships,
or navigating challenging life events
– but the goal is completely up to you.

Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
There are a variety of therapy approaches
such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy,
psychodynamic therapy, and more.

Each type of therapy has its own goals,
methods, and techniques.
Some therapies focus on
changing your thoughts and behaviors,
while others focus on exploring your emotions and relationships.
Some therapies are done individually,
while others are done with couples or families.

At Penney Murphy & Associates,
we offer a comprehensive array of psychological services,
tailored to individual therapy for adults,
couples, children and youth.

We also specialize in treating various issues,
such as depression, anxiety, trauma, stress management,
relationship challenges, self-esteem, and more.
We tailor our services to your specific needs and preferences.

How does Therapy work?

Therapy helps people heal from emotional pain,
achieve personal goals, improve relationships, and grow.
Outcomes like these are possible
because of the active ingredients of therapy:

The Therapeutic Alliance

The fit between you and your therapist is everything!

The Therapeutic Alliance
is the quality of the relationship
between the therapist and the client,
which is based on trust, empathy,
collaboration, and mutual understanding.
This will help to increase your
engagement & motivation,
and it can enhance your sense of self-efficacy,
hope and positive change.
Time and time again,
therapy research has found that the therapeutic alliance
is one of the strongest predictors of outcomes in treatment.

Established Goals with Accountability

The best outcomes in therapy happen
when the goal or desired outcome
is understood by both the client and therapist.
In other words, the goal of therapy should be made clear
and agreed upon by everyone involved.

Your Therapist will design therapeutic process accordingly,
helping you to achieve  your goals and stay accountable
session-by-session as you work to improve yourself.

Cognitive Restructuring

This is a technique that helps the client identify
and challenge their distorted or unhealthy thoughts,
beliefs, and assumptions that may cause
or maintain their emotional distress.
Cognitive restructuring can help the client replace
their unhelpful thoughts with more realistic and adaptive ones,
and can improve their mood,
behavior, and coping skills.
The best therapists balance cognitive restructuring
with compassionate curiosity
(i.e. where are those thoughts coming from, really?

Exposure and Practice

This is a technique that helps the client
confront their feared or avoided stimuli,
such as situations, objects, memories, or emotions,
in a gradual and controlled manner.
Exposure can help the client reduce their anxiety and distress,
and can enhance their learning of new associations
and responses to the stimuli.

Emotion Regulation

This is a skill that helps the client understand,
accept, and manage their emotions
in healthy and adaptive ways.
Emotion regulation can help the client
reduce their emotional reactivity and impulsivity,
and can increase their emotional awareness and expression.
As you dive deeper into your thoughts and feelings,
you’ll have a better understanding of
how to meet your needs and share openly with others.


This is a practice that helps the client
focus their attention on the present moment,
without judgment or attachment.
That’s all mindfulness is
– being aware and attentive to what’s going on in your mind,
body and surroundings.
Mindfulness helps foster a state of calmness,
acceptance, and curiosity.

Love of Self and Others

This is the ultimate goal of therapy
– to help you learn to love yourself and others on a deeper level.
Loving others takes openness and empathy,
which can be difficult for some,
especially those who have been hurt by others.
Loving yourself might be even more difficult, though.
If you struggle with loving yourself today,
start with liking yourself.
If you aren’t able to like yourself,
try accepting yourself.
If you can’t accept yourself,
maybe just tolerating yourself will do for now.
Maybe one day you can
give yourself permission to move closer to self-love.

These are just some examples
of the active ingredients of therapy.
However, different clients may respond
differently to different interventions.
Therefore, it is essential to tailor therapy
to the individual needs and preferences of each client.

What can I expect to get out of therapy?

Therapy is entirely focused on your goals,
which means you decide what
you’d like to get out of your work together.
Here are a few of the most common results
people experience through therapy:

Improved relationship with yourself.
Therapy can help you develop a more positive
and compassionate view of yourself,
and challenge the negative beliefs
and self-criticism that may hold you back.
Therapy can also help you identify your strengths,
values, and goals, and support you in pursuing them.
Therapy can help you cope with stress, anxiety, depression,
and other mental health issues that may affect your well-being.

Healing from trauma and grief.
Therapy can help you process and heal from traumatic
or painful experiences that may have left you feeling overwhelmed,
fearful, angry, or numb.
Therapy can help you create a safe space to express
and release your emotions,
and to make sense of what happened
and how it affected you.
Therapy can also help you cope with the
loss of a loved one or a significant life change,
and help you find meaning and purpose in your life.

Building essential skills.
Therapy can help you learn and practice skills
that can improve your functioning and quality of life.
Some of these skills include communication, assertiveness,
problem-solving, decision-making, emotion regulation,
mindfulness, relaxation, and self-care.
Your therapist then helps you apply these skills
to various situations and challenges that you may face
in your personal or professional life.

Rewiring your nervous system.
Therapy can help you change the way your brain
and body respond to stress, trauma, or negative emotions.
You can learn how to calm your nervous system
and reduce the physical and
psychological symptoms of stress.
Therapy can also help you strengthen
your neural pathways that support positive emotions,
resilience, and well-being.

What does Therapy look like?

Talk therapy looks a lot like a conversation
between you and your therapist.
The therapist provides you with a supportive environment
where you can talk openly with someone who is objective,
neutral, and nonjudgmental.
Your therapist will listen to you attentively and empathetically,
and ask you questions to help you clarify
your thoughts and feelings,
identify and address any unhealthy or distorted beliefs
that may be affecting you, and develop new skills
and strategies to cope with your problems and achieve your goals.

Therapy is a collaborative process
that requires your active participation and commitment.
You and your therapist will work together
to set realistic and achievable goals for your therapy.
You will also work together to monitor your progress
and adjust your treatment plan as needed.
You may also have homework assignments
between sessions to practice what you learned in therapy
or to prepare for the next session.

Time to see yourself in a different light?

Life’s too short to be stressed or unhappy.  We can help.
Penney Murphy & Associates
Counselling & Wellness Saskatoon

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