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4 min read

How to Tell If Therapy Is Working: The Ultimate Guide

When it comes to therapy, it can be difficult to know if you're making progress...especially if you're new to the process. Changes happen gradually, and often successful therapy can end up making you feel worse before big changes are made. So how do you know if you're making progress in therapy sessions? In this article, we'll explore this question, diving into the therapy process itself, learning how to identify a strong therapeutic relationship, and looking for signs in your own life.

Understanding Therapy Progress

What defines progress in therapy? Success in therapy is an individual and personal metric and it can depend on what you are seeking treatment for, your health and personal history, and who you’re receiving treatment from.

What is a "normal" baseline for one person can be different from another's. Personalities differ, and therefore you may be a naturally bubbly person with a lot of energy for others, while your friend is more subdued and doesn't love to socialize in a group. Identifying your own baseline of mental health and happiness can be the first step in determining if therapy is working.

What are your therapy goals? Attempting to manage negative emotions, improving self-knowledge, implementing behavioral changes? With a greater awareness of what you were looking to change in the first place, you can better decide if therapy is working for you. It takes time to see change, but you should be able to look back and notice whether there have been positive shifts toward any of your goals.

The Role of Mental Health in Therapy

Often, we are looking for mental health to improve as we work through therapy, leading to positive changes in our day-to-day life. A licensed therapist should be able to help you make progress on improving mental health, and achieve better mental clarity. An effective way that individual therapy can do this is by helping you understand the reasons behind your problems, and then helping you make specific changes to improve your life over time.

Evaluating Your Therapeutic Relationship

Building a Strong Therapeutic Relationship

The strength of the therapeutic alliance between you and your therapist is a reliable indicator of how effective therapy will be. A strong therapeutic relationship can be defined by good rapport, a feeling of safety and security, and a sense of collaboration. Therapy is meant to be a partnership, and the right therapist will make that clear.

For people who belong to marginalized groups, it can be important to work with another member of that group to establish trust. If this is not possible, the therapist should be able to acknowledge differences in their circumstances, and still be able to create a feeling of support and trust between themselves and their client.

Signs of Progress in Day-to-Day Life

Improving Your Day-to-Day Life

A sign therapy is making progress in your life is that you start to notice positive changes in your life. You may notice that your interactions with others are becoming a bit different. You may be able to establish better boundaries with friends and family, or to step back and observe your emotions before reacting.

Another sign of good therapy is that you may be able to find yourself independently investigating your own wants and needs, and communicating those needs clearly with others in your life.

You may find parallels between your conversations with your therapist and your actual life. When you find yourself saying "that's exactly what therapists name was talking about" or "Oh, now I see what they mean when they say…" this can be a sign of progress.

In addition to noticing the ideas of your therapist fitting situations, you may also notice an improvement in your own skills, with a greater emotional awareness and an ability to navigate problems on your own.

Finally, you may feel physically and emotionally better when therapy is working. Managing stress and other emotions, as well as shifting away from old habits that make you feel worse can lead to a greater overall feeling of well-being.

Increased Resilience and Coping Skills

Resilience is a learned skill that therapy can help you develop. Resilience is that ability to mentally and emotionally cope with difficult moments. You may also learn different ways to adapt to life changes so that situations that once triggered you feel more manageable. A good sign is when self confidence improves, allowing you to clearly communicate your wants and needs to others.

Taking an Active Role in Your Therapy

Setting Achievable Goals for Few Sessions

Being an active participant in therapy can also lead to a better sense of progress. It's important to work with your therapist to set specific and achievable goals. These goals can be behavioral or emotional, and should be applicable to your own life in a way that makes sense for you.

It's okay if you're not exactly sure what you're looking to get out of therapy. A good clinical psychologist should be able to listen in such a way as to be able help you form goals that are relevant. When working on goal-setting, if you have emotional goals, they should be paired with behavior change goals to make them more concrete and easier to implement and assess over time. If you focus on things that are within your control, you can work with your therapist to develop skills that can increase your odds of success.

Doing the Work Outside of Sessions

You only get out of therapy what you put into it. What you do outside of session is just as important as what you’re doing in your sessions, because it involves practicing what you learn in real life situations. When therapy is working, what you learn in the session should be applicable to your own personal relationships and experiences. Active efforts outside of the therapy office are necessary to create meaningful change.

You may ask your therapist to identify opportunities to integrate what you're working on into your daily life. They may also offer homework to continue your learning outside of the office. You can track your symptoms on your own, help monitor progress in therapy, or journal using prompts from your therapist.

Identifying Areas for Improvement

Sometimes you may find yourself feeling worse before you feel better. Self-knowledge can help. Reflect on which aspects of therapy aren’t working for you to help you identify areas for improvement. Be sure to share what you're feeling with your therapist so you can continue to build trust. You may have to confront and process past trauma to make further progress.

Determine How Therapy is Working in Austin, TX

Whether you're struggling with self-esteem or self-compassion, looking for treatment of a mental health disorder, or just want to talk about your own thoughts and feelings, therapy helps.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists offer both online and in-person appointments so that scheduling therapy is convenient for your life.

Give us a call today and our patient coordinator will help you find the therapist who makes you feel comfortable, and has the right tools to help you with behavior change, managing emotions or anxiety, improving relationships, and any other goals you may have for therapy sessions.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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