It is time once again for Tuesday Therapy Notes, the weekly series that examines some of the types of therapy that exist as well as some of the common issues associated with therapy. This week we ask the question, “how do you know if therapy is working.
This is an important question. After all, no one wants to waste their time and money on something that isn’t helping. And I know that personally I have definitely had therapy sessions where I left feeling worse than when I started. However, sometimes that isn’t a sign of therapy that isn’t working. Therapy can often involve confronting feelings that make you feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable. Even though you are in a safe space and confronting those feelings with the guidance of a professional, it is nevertheless natural to still feel raw. In fact, sometimes leaving worse can be a sign that you are making progress.
Other signs of progress, such as setting a few more boundaries (something I still struggle with), or feeling slightly more grounded, can be hard to identify. Making it even harder is the fact that progress is going to look different for everyone. For me, success comes from noticing times that I am less defensive with the people in my life, and more willing to open up to others.
I can also see that therapy is working by comparing where I am now, and the issues I am dealing with right now, to the ones I had when I started therapy. Because the truth is they’ve changed slowly and subtly because often recovery is slow and subtle. And while I might not see it, my therapist can often see it more objectively than me. This brings me to another point, which is that it is totally okay to ask your therapist what success looks like for you in and work with them based on that feedback to set realistic goals against which you can measure your recovery.
Beyond some of these initial points, the fact is that success in therapy is something you will have to define for yourself. For example, one sign of success that I sometimes look at is the fact that I feel a good connection with my therapist and am able to talk about things that are deeply personal without having to feel embarrassed and can respond to her feedback without feeling defensive, two things that weren’t always true.
And while success is something you have to define for yourself, I sincerely hope that this post has helped. Until next time, be well.