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The Science of Self-Help Therapy

Self-Help Therapy is exactly the same as traditional psychotherapy but is performed on yourself without a therapist being involved.

Research indicates that self-help therapy programmes can be as effective as conventional face-to-face therapy and offer a number of advantages over them including the ability to make changes in your own time and in your own home.

The key to effective self-help therapy is determined by a number of factors which we discuss below.

Young woman using self-help therapy course online

Therapy is Just a Conversation!

Conventional Psychotherapy is best described as a relational act.

What this means is that it involves people relating to each other.

When a therapist and a client participate in a psychotherapy session they only talk to each other.

The therapist talks to the client and the client talks to the therapist.

The therapist may suggest that the client could think about or make sense of their current personal circumstances in different ways and if the client is able to do this then they will invariably feel differently about their problem.

You could call this therapy conversation almost anything you like such as:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • EMDR
  • Hypnosis
  • Gestalt Therapy
  • Inter-personal therapy

The only real difference between any of the talking therapies is that the words that the therapist chooses to use differ according to the model of therapy being used.

Furhthermore, if the therapist and the client are both speak English, then all of the therapy words are going to be part of the English language.

There will not be any magical words that will somehow make the client’s brain chemistry change without the client knowing about it, just words out of the English language vocabulary!

It should be apparent, therefore, that psychotherapy is nothing more than a conversation between two people in which English words (or the common language of the therapist and client) are used to communicate a set of ideas and beliefs.

What else could it be?

Clinet and therapist talking

Therapy is the Acquisition of New Knowledge.

Given that it is widely recognised that talking therapies DO help people to overcome a wide range of problems, the question then becomes HOW does talking to someone in a room result in the client FEELING differently about their lives?

The answer to this question is very simple.

As a result of the conversation with the therapist, the client learns ‘new’ things about themselves including the meanings that they have attributed to their life experiences ie. what those experiences meant to them.

They may also come to understand that some of the ways that they have traditionally tried to cope with their problems may have been making the problems worse and not better.

These are known as maladaptive coping strategies.

During the course of therapy, therefore, the client acquires lots of new knowledge about what happened to them and what they did to cope with what happened.

Self-help therapy relies on doing new things

Change is the Application of New Knowledge.

On its own, this new knowledge that the client acquires will do NOTHING.

It is nothing more than a set of ideas stored in the brain of the client in the same way that knowing how a car works and driving a car are completely different things.

Successfully driving a car requires applying the knowledge that one has about how cars work in a practical way.

In other words, sitting in the driving seat and operating all of the required controls that lead to the car moving, safely, from A to B.

The only way to feel differently about a problem, is to use the new knowledge that is acquired during the therapy conversation in a practical way.

Therefore, the practical aplication of new knowledge produces a new set of feelings.

self-help therapy client getting new ideas

How do I get this new knowledge?

New knowledge can be acquired by many different routes that do not require another human being to be present, including:

  • Knowledge contained from written words.
  • Knowledge gained from new experiences.
  • Knowledge gained from watching videos or other visual materials.
  • Knowledge gained from other people you talk to.
  • Knowldge gained from a self-help therapy course.

There is no difference between the knowledge one acquires through a book than that acquired by listening to somebody speaking.

Self-Help Therapy Knowledge

The principal difference between the knowledge acquired through self-help therapy and that provided by a therapist is that a therapist is able to determine if the client is APPLYING the new knowledge to their problem.

This is principally determined by asking the client if they ‘feel’ any different since they acquired this new knowledge.

In other words, the therapist will observe if the client is BEHAVING differently as this will be the best indicator that they have APPLIED what they have learnt to their problem.

We could say, therefore, that the process of therapy involves providing and monitoring the acquisition and application of new knowledge by the client.

You could call this ‘overcoming’ the problem.

The acquisition and practical application of new knowledge gleaned from the self-help therapy context is not monitored or measured by any third party (a therapist) and so self-monitoring has to be used.

This is normally achieved by a number of methods:

  • Checking the level of understanding of any new knowledge that is acquired (knowledge testing).
  • Comparing old and new behaviours (monitoring the application of new knowledge).
  • Monitoring and measuring one’s feelings (checking behavioural outcomes).

In this sense, self-help therapy courses involve you acting as your own therapist.

A number of contemporary psychologists researching self-help therapy have suggested that in fact ALL forms of psychotherapy are really just assisted self-help therapy!

Free Initial Consultations for XX Banner

Arrange a FREE initial consultation

If you’d like to find out more about overcoming or recovering from xxx then why not arrange a free initial consultation with us.

During this consultation we will discuss your particular problems and the potential solutions in a safe and confidential environment without you having to commit to any therapy or counselling going forward.

This consultation lats around 50 minutes and is a great opportunity to meet our therapists and decide if you would like to proceed with any support.

Call Paul on 07434 776125 or e-mail him on paul@leepsychology.com

Call Joan 0n 07434 776504 or e-mail her on joan@leepsychology.com

Contact Paul

Wolverhampton Psychologist Paul Lee MSc.

You can contact Paul on:

07434 776125

or by e-mail at:


Links to More Information

These links take you to other resources on the web.

Self-Help Therapy on the NHS website

Paul Lee MSc.

Psychologist Paul Lee BSc MSc

About Paul

TEL: 07434 776125

Joan Lee D. Hyp.

Hypnotherapist Joan Lee D. Hyp. MIAEBP

About Joan

TEL: 07434 776504

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Lee Psychology, Maypole House, Yew Tree Court, Wombourne, South Staffordshire, WV5 9JB.

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