If we’re being technical, therapy is the process of meeting with a counselor to tackle unhealthy or troubling behaviors, beliefs, feelings, and issues. But if we’re being honest, therapy is so much more than a straight-forward definition: it’s healing and revealing; it’s a life-changing journey; and it’s difficult… yet oh-so rewarding. I could go on and on about the transformative power that is therapy, but I’ll let the pros take it from here. Here are the 6 words that mental health professionals used to encompass the meaning of therapy:

1) Commitment

Licensed Mental Health Counselor and National Board Certified Therapist Courtney Hubscher uses the word “commitment” to describe therapy: “Therapy is indeed a transformative and helpful process; however, true client growth is only achieved if the individual is committed to change, practices new skills developed in therapy between appointments, and attends regular appointments. Therapy isn’t a magic solution, it takes work and commitment.”

2) Authenticity

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Jim Seibold says that “authenticity” engulfs the meaning of therapy: “Therapy is about being honest and transparent about your thoughts and feelings. It is also about being honest with yourself and sharing that with someone that can offer some new perspectives. It is a risk to do that with someone you do not know well, personally. He adds that it’s important for the therapist to be authentic as well: “Although therapists do not talk about themselves with the clients, they do have to be aware of their own values and beliefs in order to best help clients. They cannot push their own personal agenda on the client and the best way to avoid that is to be aware of our own beliefs and biases.”

3) Undoing

The winning word for Aimee Bernstein, psychotherapist and author of the book, Stress Less Achieve More: Simple Ways to Turn Pressure into a Positive Force in Your Life, is “undoing.” She goes on to explain why: “Therapy is about letting go of the old stories, limited beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Instead of having to justify, blame, exert your will, and resist the pressures of life, therapy guides you to challenge the truth of your worldview and strip away that which doesn’t serve you. As you release the constricted energy of your emotional pain within your mind/body system, you find a more spacious and authentic version of yourself. This more conscious version of you is capable of not only functioning and relating well in the world, but one that has a sense of inner peace and well-being.”

4) Empowering

Dr. Sal Raichbach PsyD, Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Ambrosia Treatment Center says that if he had to summarize therapy using just one word, it would be “empowering.” “Good therapists don’t just dish out advice; they guide you through the process of making the correct decision for yourself. While the psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor is instrumental in facilitating the process, ultimately you are the one creating the solutions to your own problems. Solutions and conclusions that the individuals reach themselves are always more effective because they come from within,” he explains.

5) Hope

“The word that jumps out to me is hope,” says Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dan Wolfson. “People seek out therapy when they are experiencing challenges or stressors that are negatively impacting their social-emotional lives. And they would not seek this out, if they did not believe, or hope, that they might be able to find support. I deeply believe that we all have the capacity and resilience to overcome or cope with life’s stressors—and it is often my role as the therapist to hold this feeling of hopefulness even when those I work with have a hard time feeling it themselves,” he explains.

6) Risk

Ethan Bratt, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Sex Therapist, says, “good therapy is all about risk: risking yourself by opening up to being challenged, to facing your flaws and where you lack, to walking away from comfortable and into the unknown, to putting in hard work and sacrifice and only being able to hope and trust that it will get you where you want to go. There are payoffs, but it can be downright terrifying at times to have to look at yourself that plainly, that vulnerably. It’s when clients are truly willing to risk in the process that they find the real payoffs of therapy.”