What Skills Does Therapy Teach?

Everyone knows that exercise works a person’s muscles and teaches them the skills to keep their bodies healthy. In the same way,  therapy refines our emotional durability and teaches us skills that are critical to thriving in the world. 


Learning these skills is a necessity for everyone, regardless of mental wellness. In a society that de-prioritises mental health, humans often navigate emotionally tiring or complex situations in poorly thought-out ways that bring them more distress. Being in harmony with our emotional landscape helps us to make better-considered decisions that make life much easier. 

Everyone needs different skills

Therapy is a tailored process; mental health practitioners listen to individual concerns and struggles, and then develop a course of action in response. Not everyone will need the same course of therapy. Plus, one skill might work for one person and fail for another. While some skills, like gaining self-confidence, are universal across all people, the individual, long-term benefit therapy provides is from fine-tuning the therapy to address a person’s unique context and problems. 

Major skills that therapy teaches

Therapists come with a variety of specialities and preferences that can work for a variety of mental struggles ranging from common to rare. It is best to do research and speak with therapists in order to find one that fits your needs. That said, most therapists are able to teach skills that help with:


Emotional Self-Regulation

Managing a wide variety of emotions is hard for all human beings. This becomes exponentially more difficult when we feel mentally unwell. Controlling anger, sitting with sadness, and managing frustration during periods of distress are skills learned with time,  effort and via a variety of exercises – much like how we develop muscles. Therapists can help us identify situations where we can let loose (e.g. time alone to cry) or hold the fort (e.g. while supporting another family member).



Poor mental health can drain people of motivation and make them poor advocates for themselves. Therapists are trained to engage with weakening self-images with care and help people bridge a path towards security. During this process, therapists will help people with the skills required to accept themselves as they are or work towards new goals to increase motivation.


Processing Grief

The loss of a loved one is always a tough situation to cope with. Doing it alone makes it much harder. A therapist acts as a guide, helping patients make their peace with their loss and take gradual steps forward in a life without their loved one.


Reframing Thoughts

Mental struggles have a way of drawing a screen over the good parts of people’s lives. Therapists teach patients ways to reframe their thoughts in order to open that mental screen. For example: A therapist might ask a patient who believes they are unloved to examine why their partner, children, and friends care for them so much and then reframe their belief about themselves.


Reclaiming Confidence and Positive Self-Image

No one is born hating themselves, but some social interactions can chip away at a person’s self-confidence rapidly. Here, therapists intervene and teach patients skills to fortify their self-image. This helps create a strong core around which patients can build back their self-confidence.



Mental struggles tend to make people believe the world is against them. Therapists counter that by re-introducing people to self-control and accountability. These skills, when applied to personal and emotional lines of thought, help people re-orient towards drawing satisfaction from giving their best in each situation. With this re-orientation, external situations stop becoming a factor for constant stress and worry.



Many people struggle with drawing boundaries with friends, family, or even clients, that protect themselves from distress. Working with a therapist can enable them to learn how to say no in the ways that best suit their situation and enjoy healthy personal space for their own interests.


What therapy cannot teach 


Therapists can help us with many struggles by teaching many skills, but misinformation may make us believe therapy can do a lot more than it promises. Therapy has its limits in the following areas:


Drastic personality change

There are no skills that can help alter a personality. However, therapists can help us investigate the root cause of our reactions and behaviours and help us learn to accept ourselves as we are. This is a long, but ultimately rewarding process.


Taking away pain

Therapists cannot teach us how to instantly remove the mental agony that comes with grief, sadness or rage. What they can help with is teaching us skills to cope with pain, understand it, and live with it as it minimises with time.


Remember: therapy only does as much for us as we put into it. If we only provide partial information about our lives and struggles, our therapist will have incomplete information and may be unable to identify the right exercises and skills to help us. Or the skill may just not work, because it’s being applied to the wrong problem. Dishonesty in therapy is like seeking a band-aid for a serious wound. Any skills learnt in this context will be ineffective. 

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