Does Therapy Work?

Is it worth spending valuable time and money on therapy to improve your mental health?

Patrick Heller
3 min readFeb 20


Talking about different forms of therapy almost makes you forget one very important question that the scientific inquisitive mind should be asking — does therapy even work?

Ever since the days of Freud, the number of therapies has skyrocketed. About 5% of the therapists describe themselves as psychodynamic — thus at least loosely basing their therapy on Freud’s methods. Almost 30% think of themselves as cognitive therapists, and another 30% of the therapists consider themselves eclectic — meaning, they use a mixture of all kinds of therapies. These days, you can find numerous new forms of therapy, ranging from “running therapy” to “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy”.

Numerous studies over the years have shown that around 60% of psychotherapy clients feel better after a certain period — think months here. That sounds like a good piece of evidence vouching for therapy. There are a few caveats, however.

First of all, control studies show that about 30% of the people who are on a waiting list to become a therapy client also feel better after a period of time. This means that out of the 60% of the clients that feel better after a while, half of them would have felt better even if they hadn’t received the therapy. This leaves only 30% that feel better because of the therapy.

Another caveat is that it does matter which form of therapy is used — not all therapies are created equal. Also, what works for one, might not work for another, and vice versa. What seems to help in most cases is two things — a good relationship between the client and the therapist, and the amount of trust that the client has in the form of therapy being right for them.

Do these low numbers indicate that you shouldn’t even consider therapy if you suffer mentally? No, it does not. As a matter of fact, physical healthcare shows similar scores on effectiveness, so mental healthcare is not out of step in that respect.

What you do need to do — and this applies to the use of therapeutic tools in a business environment as well — is to set your expectations. You cannot expect these techniques to be wonder tools that will bend wills or heal souls with a snap of your fingers. Life’s never that easy.

If you are interested in stories like these and more, you can buy Essential Psychology for Modern Organizations from Amazon and other bookstores:



Patrick Heller

Agile Coach ★ Author ★ Speaker