Recently one of my students asked a question that deserves some honest attention: “What kind of therapy works?” There are a lot of modalities out there, and the popularity of each lasts about as long as a fashion style. Most even have their own acronyms: EMDR, SE, IFS, DBT, and so on. Pretty much every modality works for some people and not so well for others. No one wants to talk about this because it seems to devalue the years of education, training, and supervision it takes to enter the counseling professions and become certified in different techniques. But I see it differently. I think it shows just how important the people are to the process. What works in therapy is something much more personal, both simpler and more profound.
Good therapy has to do with presence. How deep is this person’s awareness, how full is their attention. If you’ve ever been around a person who is completely there with you, who sees you as you really are, that’s presence. So if you’re looking for someone to support you through a difficult time in your life, I’d say, look for someone you naturally click with and who can bring their whole being into the room with you.
As for what modality they practice, what’s most important is that they’ve made it their own. The most influential therapists have been the ones who have developed these tools, after all. Before a technique becomes a model, it is raw intuition and creativity. So whether someone has five credentials or just one, what matters is that they use their particular tools in a way that feels natural and genuine. A lot of different methods work, but beneath all of them is the essence of the person using them.
And of course, no one can do your work for you, no matter how interesting and complex their process is. There is no magic fix. We heal when we are ready and in our own time; it’s not something someone else does for us. Having someone who sees your strength when you can’t see it can be a missing ingredient, the one that opens up the real possibility of something new emerging. And then, when you’re ready to let go of the old ways, you step into that possibility. There are many wonderful processes that facilitate change, but in the end, you and only you can put those changes into practice day by day.
We all have to take responsibility for our own feelings, our own reactions, and our own choices. But we are not alone here. Just the act of seeking help is a powerful statement of readiness for change. It’s one of the hardest steps, but it opens the way for many more to follow. With clear intention, authentic support, and practice, growth is inevitable!