top of page

Why [do people] go to therapy?

There are many reasons why someone might choose to go to therapy. You may know some of them based on what other people have shared with you or based on your own experiences seeking therapy.

Therapists also have a sense of why clients seek therapy based having asked numerous new patients, "what brings you in [to therapy]?" (or some version of that introductory question).

I was curious to see if any research had summarized some of the reasons why people go to therapy, and I found an interesting study (Grosse & Grawe, 2002) that created a taxonomy of treatment goal themes among patients participating in outpatient psychotherapy. The researchers divided the goals into five themes: Coping with specific problems and symptoms; Interpersonal goals; Well-being and functioning; Existential issues; and Personal growth. Each of these themes include more detailed subcategories of why people go to therapy, which you can review by clicking on the images below.

The researchers (Grosse & Grawe, 2002) then analyzed the percentage of patients who endorsed specific goal categories and found that most reported one symptom/problem (e.g., anxiety) and interpersonal goal (e.g., increasing connectedness/intimacy; becoming more assertive), and nearly half of clients reported goals related to personal growth (e.g., improving self-confidence). Well-being and existential goals were less common, though, still meaningful to many clients.

Click the below image for a summary of these data, though, remember that these data only summarize patients at one clinic AND DO NOT represent the general therapy-seeking population.

Percetage of patients with specific treatment goals (Gross & Grawe, 2002)

How knowing the reasons people seek therapy can help you

Clearly, these data show that people start therapy for a variety of reasons - including working on specific problems or symptoms, their relationships, or personal growth. Moreover, many people have multiple reasons for starting therapy, and some people (~13% in the study) come to therapy wanting to clarify their desires, wants, and needs, suggesting that it's ok to not know what you want and that that figuring out your goals can, in fact, be its own important work in therapy.

Ultimately, what matters is your reason for considering therapy. It may or may not align with what's described above - and that's ok! Chances are that you can find a therapist who has lots of experience with what you're wanting to work on. And I'm also happy to connect to see if my online therapy practice could be helpful to you.


Commenting has been turned off.

Contact Dr. Kennedy

Submit your contact information, and I will be in touch

Thank you - I'll be in touch

bottom of page