By: Rachel Goldsmith, MS, MA
Therapy is a highly effective tool for managing life’s many twists and turns. It can help you develop insight and change that brings you closer to a life that you want to live, full of meaningful relationships and self-love. Just because therapy can help does not mean that you always know what to expect during the therapeutic process. Everyone experiences therapy somewhat differently, but one of the common aspects of most therapy treatments that both client and therapist attend to is whether or not it feels like therapy is “working.”
But how do you know that you are progressing in therapy? While some weeks it may feel as though you cover a great deal of ground and make major shifts in your life, there may also be periods of time where it feels less intense and that change comes slower. In this variable, ebb and flow process of therapy, it can be helpful to know some signs that you are progressing in your overall arc of therapy.
Here are 6 ways to know if therapy is working and you are making progress.
- You are building insight. One of the many benefits of therapy is that it helps people see themselves in more meaningful ways. Gaining insight into a situation that has left you stuck for weeks, months – even years – can be a sign that you are progressing in therapy. Even if the insight you build is painful, it is progress to begin to face that pain and learn more about yourself.
- You feel more deeply. Sometimes people enter therapy with the hope that suddenly they will feel better. This makes a lot of sense – who doesn’t want to feel better right away? In reality however, therapy does not always work like that. Sometimes therapy helps you face feelings that you have been avoiding, like sadness, grief, pain, guilt, or hurt. Sometimes you feel a little worse before you feel better, and that is, in fact, a sign of progress in therapy.
- You are connecting with others (and yourself) in more meaningful ways. One way to know that you are progressing in your therapy is that you are connecting – communicating and bonding – more deeply with others. If you are mending a broken relationship, reconnecting with someone you pushed away, or nurturing the bonds you do have, then you are making progress as a result of your therapy. If you feel as though you are nurturing your relationship with yourself – being gentler on yourself, more forgiving, or seeing how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors make sense (even if you ultimately would like to see changes in these areas) – then that is progress, as well.
- You can better manage your emotions and stress. Therapy helps us manage the thoughts and feelings that can overwhelm us, get in our way and ultimately keep us from living in the world in our most preferred ways. If you are finding that you can manage those overwhelming feelings more effectively, and say, not snapping at your partner for some small issue or being able to soothe your anxiety enough to get a good night sleep, then that is a good sign that therapy is being helpful.
- You are developing a language with which to express yourself. How often do we have just the right words or way to communicate our thoughts and feelings? Therapy assists us in developing appropriate and more accurate ways of expressing ourselves so that we meet our own needs and the needs of our relationships. If you can tell that you are learning a language with which to describe and express yourself, then this is a signal that you are getting something positive out of the therapy experience.
- You are taking steps (even small ones) toward change. Are you noticing yourself change, even if it is simply in a shift of mindset or taking a new perspective? Are you able to put insights you build into practice in your day? Are you seeing how you have some control over what is distressing you (even if it is just building acceptance of a difficult situation)? Perhaps simply opening up to talk to a therapist is a change for you. Every small step you take as a result of being in therapy is a good sign that you are moving forward and progressing.
If you are looking for more effective treatment, come talk to us today. Our therapists are here to help.