What Makes Counseling Successful?

I’m a huge fan of getting therapy so it’s only natural that people like to tell me all the reasons they think it’s not worth the effort. They say, “I’ve tried counseling, it didn’t work for me.” “I just talk to my friends.” Or even worse, “Maybe this is just as good as life gets for people like me.”

I get it. Counseling is hard. There are obstacles to having a successful counseling experience, but I refuse to believe that life can’t improve and that we can’t grow and transform with God’s power as we seek wise counsel.

I also won’t deny that obstacles are real. The first time my husband and I went to counseling, we hit up against some big ones. We did our best to do our research and find a counselor who would be a good fit for us. In fact, she came highly recommended and had a strong reputation. But, after about six months it became clear that we were not going to be successful. (Important note: We didn’t quit after two sessions!)

Our first obstacle was that my husband Michael had an untreated mental illness. We had yet to discover that he was struggling with bipolar 2 disorder and she did not do any kind of psychological assessment that would give her any indication that he had signs of a mood disorder.

Our second obstacle was, and you won’t believe this:  the counselor didn’t like my husband. I’m mean he’s awesome so I don’t get it. I’m honestly not slamming the counselor, but no one is going to feel safe to open up to you if they can tell you dislike them. She was clearly slanted toward my side of things and it was obvious. Even though everyone likes to be told they are “right” it wasn’t helpful for bringing about a restored relationship.

As I’ve reflected on the difference between successful and unsuccessful counseling I realize that you need a few important components.

What Do You Need for Successful Counseling?

  1. A good fit between you and your therapist. You need to have some chemistry and feel safe to open up.
  2. Someone who is well educated in your area of need. If you are going to therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, make sure the counselor has experience in treating it.
  3. Being in denial will sabotage any counseling experience. If you don’t recognize your need you won’t open up your heart to reflection and change.
  4. Inviting God into the process. Don’t make it solely intellectual or emotional. We need that connect with God to make it all tie together.
  5. Fear from a prior negative experience. It’s normal to be hesitant after a bad encounter, but don’t let past hurts keep you from experiencing a future of freedom. Go all in and refuse to give up!
bible verse john 10:10


The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10

Question and Action Steps:

What have been your obstacles in seeking counseling and how have you overcome them? Comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

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