Positioning Traditional Therapy Ahead of Self-Help

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Male therapist taking notes while male client talks

For individuals accustomed to relying on self-help strategies such as meditation, journaling, or even utilizing apps like Headspace or Calm, mental health care providers may feel as though they can’t possibly compete. But, in truth, there is an opportunity to provide services that will take individuals’ progress to the next level.

If you are a mental health care practitioner, knowing how to promote your services to people exclusively using self-help methods can help you reach more people who could benefit from the additional support that therapy can provide.  The key to making this transition is understanding the nuances of traditional therapy and how it can complement (or even replace) a person’s existing self-help strategies.

Explaining the Growth of Self-Help

Before we can make the case for traditional talk therapy, we need to understand why self-help strategies have grown in popularity over time. Self-help books, apps, and other tools have become attractive options for those who wish to find mental health solutions without the cost and perceived stigma of professional help. Additionally, technological advancements in the form of mindfulness apps allow users to access mental health support at any time and anywhere.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also made self-help more attractive as it allows people to access mental health help without ever leaving their homes. The convenience and privacy of self-help strategies have made them a popular option for many in recent years – even for those who would have gone to therapy pre-pandemic.

At the same time, there is a cultural shift towards valuing individuality and self-reliance in managing mental health. This has been accentuated by the wide range of online resources and communities dedicated to helping people take charge of their mental health. 

The Benefits of Traditional Therapy

So why should mental health professionals continue to advocate for traditional talk therapy?

Despite the growth in the popularity of self-help strategies, traditional talk therapy remains the gold standard when it comes to improving mental health. Research has consistently shown that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other forms of talk therapy can be highly effective in treating a wide variety of mental health issues, from anxiety and depression to substance abuse.

One key aspect of traditional therapy is that it gives people access to an objective and unbiased third party. In addition to providing a safe space to work through personal issues, therapists also provide their clients with the tools they need better to manage their mental health in the long term. This can include teaching them how to recognize behavior patterns, navigate difficult emotions, and communicate more effectively.

Since traditional therapy is based on a personalized approach, its effectiveness depends mainly on the client-therapist relationship. This means that clients have to take an active role in their treatment and be willing to trust the therapist’s guidance. It also requires them to make a longer-term commitment than they would with self-help strategies, which can be a challenge for those accustomed to quick-fix solutions.

Making the Case for Traditional Therapy

As a mental health professional, you can help inform potential clients that traditional therapy is the best route for them, even if they’ve been relying on self-help strategies for some time. With the right approach, you can help clients understand that traditional therapy is a safe, effective, and efficient option with plenty of unique benefits.

Understand the Power of Storytelling

Clients can be more receptive to traditional therapy if you help them understand what it is, why it works and how it can benefit them on a personal level. To make the most of this approach, take time to craft stories that illustrate the effectiveness of therapy in a relatable way. This will establish an emotional connection with your clients and make them feel more invested in the process.

Encourage Questions and Provide Honest Answers

Clients who have been relying on self-help strategies may have misconceptions about traditional therapy, so it’s important to address their concerns honestly. Promote an open dialogue by encouraging clients to ask questions and answer them truthfully and transparently. This will help them feel more at ease with the idea of traditional therapy.

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Acknowledge Their Individual Needs and Concerns

Every client will come to you with different needs and worries, so it’s important to recognize those special considerations when recommending traditional therapy. Take the time to understand their individual experiences, background, and preferences before making recommendations so that you can tailor your approach to their specific needs.

Emphasize the Importance of a Trusting Relationship

Traditional therapy works best when there’s an honest, respectful, and trusting relationship between the client and therapist. Explain the value of this connection in terms that your clients can relate to, emphasizing how it will help them to feel more secure, supported, and empowered.

Show how Traditional Therapy Complements Self-Help Strategies

It’s important to emphasize the unique benefits of traditional therapy, but you should also make it clear that it can be used in conjunction with other methods, such as self-help strategies. Demonstrate how these approaches can combine to provide a more holistic approach to improving mental health.

By taking the time to explain and demonstrate the value of traditional therapy in a relatable way, you can help convince even the most skeptical clients that this approach is worth considering. With your expertise and guidance, they’ll be more likely to trust that it’s the best option for managing their mental health in the long term.

The Benefits of Combining Traditional Therapy and Self-Help Strategies

Using a combination of traditional therapy and self-help strategies can be highly beneficial for clients who are coming from a self-help background. It’s important to emphasize that therapy should be viewed as an investment of time, energy, and resources rather than a one-time solution.

For example, traditional therapy can help clients uncover the root causes of their issues, such as unresolved trauma or negative thought patterns. This type of work often takes time, but it pays off in the long run by allowing clients to address those underlying issues and make sustainable changes. At the same time, self-help strategies can give them practical tools for managing difficult thoughts and emotions as they come up. This can provide them with a sense of control, while also giving them more confidence in their ability to cope and succeed in life.

By helping clients to understand how traditional therapy and self-help strategies can be used together, you can equip them with the necessary skills to address their mental health issues more fully. This combination of approaches is likely to be far more effective than any single approach on its own.


Convincing clients to try traditional therapy is no easy task, but it can be done with the right attitude and approach. Show your clients that you understand their concerns and that you’re willing to work with them to find solutions tailored to their specific needs. Emphasize the unique benefits of this form of therapy and how it can be combined with self-help strategies to create a more comprehensive approach to improving mental health. By doing so, you’ll show them that traditional therapy is a valid and worthwhile option for managing their mental health.

Ultimately, helping clients to understand the value of traditional therapy will empower them to make informed decisions about their mental health and take charge of their own well-being. With your expertise and guidance, they’ll be more likely to trust that it’s the best option for managing their mental health in the long term.

TheraNest for Behavioral Health Professionals

TheraNest is the perfect companion for traditional therapy. With a suite of features designed to make running your practice more manageable than ever, you can save time and effort on administrative tasks while providing better care for your clients. The appointment reminders feature helps keep no-shows and cancellations to a minimum, while integration with Wiley Practice Planners makes taking detailed notes easier. Try a free 21-day trial and experience the power of TheraNest for yourself.



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