What are the ingredients for successful therapy?

 In Psychotherapy

A recent study* looked at why psychotherapy works – or more specifically, the conditions that promote positive growth and change. One trait stood out among all of the others such as social support, beliefs, etc. The study indicated that psychological flexibility was the most important quality for mental health and well-being regardless of the presenting issue that the client began therapy with.  Psychological flexibility includes the ability to be aware of the present moment, your thoughts, feelings, sensations.  This has commonly been described as the power of the present moment, or mindfulness in daily life.  People who cultivate a mindful approach to their experience may be less negatively influenced by their thoughts and judgements  – in other words, they may not be carried away by the mental “chatter” or stuck in destructive thought patterns that can cause anxiety or depression.

Psychological flexibility also includes a willingness to be open to all emotions and reactions, even ones that are difficult or painful.  Life does sometimes involve painful loss and grief and trying to avoid these states may be more harmful than helpful.  Mindfulness and openness can be a vehicle to move through all states with acceptance and letting go.

Finally, psychological flexibility also involves the skill of valued engagement which means finding your purpose in life and actively living that purpose.  It may involve finding out what is really important to you – for example family, meaningful work, and working toward a goal that is uniquely yours.  In other words, having a reason to get up each morning and live your day.  It can be challenge to know what exactly that is in your life, finding a skilled therapist can assist you in uncovering


*S. Hayes, 2023

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