September 2, 2021
Whether you are new to therapy or have been attending sessions for a while, you may be wondering how to tell if therapy is working. Questioning the efficacy of therapy is common, and you are encouraged to do so!
Therapy is an important investment and a meaningful undertaking. It’s wise to consider ways you can measure your progress and identify each of your successes along the way. There are a few things to know if you want to get the most value out of your time in counseling. So what can you do to succeed in therapy?
Therapy is about more than venting! Verbalizing your troubles can be helpful, but the true purpose of therapy is to move in a specific direction.
Deciding where you would like to end up is between you and your therapist. People are complex and multifaceted! A one-size-fits-all approach does not work very well in therapy. You have to choose goals and create a plan based on what is right for you.
Talk to your therapist about what improvements you would like to achieve. Come to an agreement about how you will measure those improvements. You have to set realistic goals, establish your expectations, and understand possible limitations. Collaborate with your therapist and adjust your goals over time as needed.
Stick with it and do what you can do to influence your progress. To experience the full benefits of therapy, make your best effort to show up, take an active role on your journey, and keep an open mind along the way.
So how can you get a sense for how you are progressing on your journey? There are several signs you can look for. Here are five ways to gauge how well therapy is working for you:
A simple sign that therapy is working is when you notice that you have started to feel better! This may not always be obvious since we all have our ups and downs.
The key here is to look for larger trends in how your behaviors or symptoms have changed. Signs of improvement in specific areas should become clearer over time.
Trends could reflect a general decrease in problematic thoughts and feelings. You may notice an increase in positive behaviors and a greater use of helpful coping skills.
You might even see a general improvement in how you feel physically. For example, you might observe that you sleep more soundly or feel more rested. It’s possible that you might experience fewer adverse sensations like headaches or stomachaches.
Your therapist may also periodically offer scales and forms to fill out. These tools can be useful to see how specific symptoms or behaviors have changed over time.
As your self-knowledge improves, you may start to become more accepting of yourself. Your self-esteem may also get a boost as you gain a greater awareness of what makes you tick.
Are you getting better at using the techniques, tools, and resources you picked up in therapy? If you find yourself gravitating towards the things that support your wellbeing more often, therapy is working.
You might find that you are getting better at acknowledging responsibility for your actions. You may even begin to recognize when you are holding yourself back.
Gaining a better understanding of yourself can be satisfying and even comforting. But keep in mind that the root of the problem – the heart of the issue that brought you to therapy – may still be unresolved.
Your enhanced self-knowledge and self-acceptance are definite steps forward. Continuing with therapy beyond this point can help you tackle larger issues more effectively.
When relationships improve, life improves. This speaks for itself!
Couples, marriage, family, and group therapy come to mind as the most traditional paths for relationship support. However, enhanced relationships can result from individual counseling as well.
Individual therapy does not have to be limited to personal issues or internal work. Individual therapy can also address the environments and systems you encounter in day-to-day life. This includes how you interact with and relate to others in a variety of different relationships, and within your community too.
So how can we track improvement? Your loved ones may comment about the changes they have noticed in you, but it may be more subtle than that. Relationship improvement is likely to happen gradually.
You might notice that you are applying new skills when faced with challenging social situations. As a result, you may feel some relief from tension in your relationships. You may begin to feel more confident in your ability to communicate your needs and feelings.
Opening up to your loved ones and letting them be part of your journey can deepen your bond. You might get the sense that deeper and more fulfilling relationships are on the horizon.
This is a hard one, but let’s dive right in. While there is ALWAYS hope, the road to growth and healing is often rocky. Facing latent or deep-seated issues is challenging. Experiencing and working on your deepest emotions can be draining. There is no way around it – if you want to improve, you need to allow yourself to observe and experience your “negative” feelings (and to clarify, there are no “good” or “bad” emotions or feelings).
You might have doubts or fall into old habits. But some backpedaling or stalling is not necessarily cause for alarm. It takes time to create new routines and override old patterns. Therapy is working when you know you have the support to continue improving despite setbacks.
Your therapist might even make you a little uncomfortable! You can expect that some aspects of therapy may nudge you outside of your comfort zone. Therapists use a variety of safe and trusted methods to help propel you to create the changes that you set out to achieve by seeking therapy.
You might find that some things temporarily seem to get worse before they get better. Always let your therapist know if you begin to feel worse! It is important to ask for support and discuss any concerns you may have.
At a certain point, you will experience a deeper level of clarity. In the not too distant future, you will feel ready to handle difficult situations with greater independence.
Resilience is a learned skill, and therapy helps you build it within. When you are resilient, you are better able to manage negative emotions. Resilience is the secret ingredient that helps you bounce back from the stresses of life. Resilience begins to grow as you develop greater patience for yourself and gain clarity on your journey.
Challenging emotions and situations do not necessarily disappear. They are part of life! But as you progress on your journey, you will grow stronger and no longer feel overwhelmed by them.
You will learn ways to adapt so that triggering situations feel more manageable. You will not only openly ask for help when needed, but you will know what to do to help yourself. As you develop resilience, you might find that you do not need to see your therapist as regularly.
The first step to finding the right therapist is to do some research. For example, you could browse through our therapists’ profiles to find someone who has an approach that resonates with you. If you are still not sure, you could also contact the therapist you are considering to request a brief consultation.
However, it can sometimes take a few sessions before you feel sure that you are connecting with your therapist. Give it some time! Forming an honest relationship with your therapist is vital. You can build greater momentum if you give your therapist the opportunity to really get to know you.
When your therapist “gets you,” they interpret what you say and do much more accurately. They can use this information to get you on the path that is right for you (and reroute you if you veer off track).
A strong client-therapist relationship sets an excellent foundation for your success! It can help you have a more fulfilling journey AND reach your destination more quickly.
Please remember that it is always safe to talk to us about your concerns. If you are having difficulty connecting with your current therapist, we encourage you to reach out to our team for assistance. Your therapist wants you to succeed, no matter what! It is important to understand that you are welcome to ask about a referral to a different therapist or to request alternative treatment options, if need be.
At Andrews & Associates, we want you to look out for signs that therapy is working! Take inventory of how you are feeling inside. Notice how your behaviors and outlook have changed.
As always, our goal is to help you achieve mental, emotional, and relational wellbeing. You will know therapy is working when you experience hope, growth, and healing. ⯁
Former Director of Marketing and Communications at Andrews & Associates Counseling.