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How to Tell If Therapy Is Really Working

Going to therapy is an investment of both your money and your time. It’s understandable to want to be able to tell when your investment is paying off.

How can you tell if therapy is really working for you? Here are six signs to watch out for. 

You’ve met treatment goals

Ideally, you and your therapist will have set specific treatment goals at the beginning of your work together. Having set treatment goals makes it easy to know if therapy is really working for you. For example, perhaps you set out in the beginning of therapy to be more active in your lifestyle. Maybe you wanted to process a traumatic event that you went through.

The best treatment goals are specific and measurable. This way, it’s easier to tell whether or not you’re making any progress in therapy. For example, “Feel better” may be difficult to objectively measure. But “Drink to cope with stress no more than once a month” is easier to keep track of.

It’s never too late to set treatment goals with your therapist, so if you’re concerned that therapy isn’t working, it may be time to have a conversation with your therapist about setting measurable goals.

You feel better

Sometimes, though, progress feels more subjective. How do you feel, compared to when you started therapy? If you feel better, then that’s a simple indication to follow that therapy is working for you. In the psychology world, we might phrase this as being “less symptomatic.” If you came in with several symptoms of depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder, and you’re experiencing less symptoms now, then it’s likely that therapy is working. 

It’s important to note, however, that therapy doesn’t always make you feel better right away. In fact, sometimes, it may make you feel worse before you get better. A classic example of this is someone who goes into treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Often, when processing traumatic memories - especially if they’re memories that you’ve avoided for a while - PTSD symptoms can flare up. This is natural; you’re recalling painful memories that you’ve tried not to think about. Sometimes, the only way out is through 一 so stick with it. Talk to your therapist if you’re concerned about how you’re feeling.

You have better relationships

Look around you at the quality of your relationships. Are they stronger or more fulfilling than they used to be? Do you have deeper connections with the people in your life? Do you have stronger boundaries with toxic people?

If your relationships have improved since you started therapy, this is a good sign that it’s working. Additionally, if the people you have close relationships with have noticed an improvement in your mood or behaviors, that might be a sign that therapy is working, too. Sometimes, it’s hard to measure progress within ourselves 一 but our growth might be clear to those around us.

You’re using skills you learned in therapy

Many people go to therapy simply for a non-judgmental place to be listened to and supported. But your therapist should be doing more than just listening 一 they should be providing you with valuable skills that you can use outside of their office. Examples of skills that your therapist should equip you with include communication skills, self-regulation skills (the ability to make yourself feel better when you’re upset), and anger management skills.

How many new skills have you learned since starting therapy? And how regularly do you actually use these skills after you leave your therapist’s office? If you’ve learned useful new life skills in therapy, then therapy is doing what it’s supposed to. If you feel like all your therapist does is listen to you without equipping you with any skills, then have a conversation with them. Be clear about what your needs are.

Related Blog: A Prescription for Self Love

You’re dealing with or thinking about situations differently

Therapy may also be working if you’ve gained a new perspective on important situations in your life. For example, maybe something or someone used to really upset you, but since going to therapy you’ve found that you’re able to confront the situation with peace. 

If you’re thinking about or dealing with situations in your life in a healthier way than you used to, that’s a good sign that therapy is working. This is true whether you’re dealing with things better because of new skills you’ve learned in therapy, or because your therapist has helped you reach a place of acceptance and peace about the situation.

You don’t feel like you need to go anymore

Finally, a crystal-clear sign that therapy is successful is feeling like you simply don’t need it anymore. Therapy doesn’t need to be a lifelong pursuit. While some people enjoy going to therapy long-term, many go just to solve a specific problem in their lives. It might be possible that you’ve solved the problem that brought you to therapy in the first place, and you feel like you just don’t need it anymore.

Note that this is different from simply not wanting to go to therapy anymore. Many things can lead you to not want to go to therapy, including fear and a therapist-client relationship that’s not the right fit. If you’ve been feeling like you don’t need therapy anymore, talk to your therapist and share with them the progress you feel you’ve made. You can work together to make an exit plan.

Related Blog: Ready to Break Up With Your Therapist? Here’s How

At the end of the day, only you and your therapist can know whether or not your specific treatment is working for you. If you don’t feel like therapy has been effective, talk to your therapist about it. Just because therapy hasn’t worked so far doesn’t mean that therapy as a whole isn’t for you.

A good therapist will listen to your concerns and make adjustments as necessary. Don’t forget that therapy isn’t an immediate miracle cure 一 it may take some time to start seeing results. But many people find relief from their pain and suffering every day through therapy. Have patience, and keep going.


What Should I Do Next?

Option I: Reach out to a therapist from the directory

Option II: Check out our Balance Shirt

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