How Does Psychotherapy Work?

Therapy should be a place where you feel understood and supported—this is as important as any therapeutic style or ‘technique.’ When I opened my San Francisco psychotherapy office, I wanted to create a safe environment, where you could be real and tell your truth without fear of judgment.

In this context of safety and care, therapy works by helping you understand yourself more fully, gain new perspectives, break out of painful patterns, and learn new skills and strategies for handling life’s challenges, so that you can reach your goals.

Ultimately, new understandings, paired with new habits, can reduce depression, anxiety and other mental health difficulties, and help shift even long-entrenched patterns in how you think about yourself and how you relate to others, so that you can find more happiness and success.

I am especially invested in helping you:

  • have more authentic and connected relationships
  • make decisions with clarity
  • feel more confident, resilient, peaceful and free
  • improve your mood and reduce your anxiety
  • feel less haunted by painful or traumatic experiences
  • cope with stress in healthy ways

Did you know that up to one-third of adults in the United States have a mental health problem for which they need help? While sometimes these difficulties go away on their own, research shows that those who seek therapy for these difficulties do better than those who do not.

Therapy can be an effective treatment for depression and anxiety, can help heal the impact of trauma, and can help people overcome substance use problems and other emotional difficulties. Psychotherapy has even been found to have a positive effect on the body’s immune system and improve overall health.

How do these changes happen?

I believe that change becomes possible when we become truly aware, and accepting, of what is really happening in our lives– even the hard parts. But accepting your current reality, when it’s not to your liking, isn’t the same as clinging to it or wanting more of it– it’s just an acknowledgement of what is really true:

“I really don’t like my job– I want more from life.”

“I’m anxious a lot and don’t know how to change it.”

“If I tell her how I feel, I’m scared she’ll cut me off.”

Developing honest, nonjudgmental awareness of what’s happening in your life, even the parts it’s hard to look at, takes you partway to real change. The next step is to develop new ways to think about or respond to situations. You may be so used to habitual, old patterns that we can’t see any other way. Learning new strategies for coping, and relating to yourself and to others, gives you more choice in how you act. Instead of automatically reacting, you can try other ways of responding that may work better.

Nonjudgmental Awareness + New Skills = Choice and Change

Unlike a visit to a medical doctor, psychotherapy is a collaboration between therapist and client. It calls for an active effort on both of our parts to catch old ways of being, make sense of them, determine whether there is a better way, and form new habits. It takes time and practice both in and out of the consulting room. But you know what I, and many others, have discovered? It can be worth it.

See for yourself with a free consultation:


415-828-2942 or laura@drlaurawald.com