In 2020, 1 in 6 Americans entered therapy. Admitting that you need help and seeking therapy is the first step in the long process of recovering from mental illness. If you’re in therapy, you know that healing from your past traumas and learning new coping skills can be a taxing, difficult process.
So, how do you know that therapy is helping? Mental health disorders have different effects on everyone. What looks and feels like health and wellness for you could be very different from someone else’s.
Because of this, there is no one "measurement" for success in therapy. But there are a few markers to watch out for as you process your therapy experience.
As we mentioned, success in therapy looks different for everyone. But if you’re trying to measure how whether or not your therapist is a good fit, here are some of the signs to look out for.
While depression and anxiety aren’t the only reasons to seek therapy, an improved mood could still mean that your therapy is working. Therapy is a tool that can help you in every aspect of your life. If you’re starting to feel more cheerful or have a more positive outlook on your day, that’s a good sign that it’s working.
A big factor of mental illness is the way it changes our thought patterns. We fall into dangerous thinking cycles that can leave us unhappy or in danger of harm. Therapy helps us reshape our thinking.
How many negative or destructive thoughts are you having? Are you focusing on unattainable things or frightening possibilities? Or, are you more focused on the present, focused on working with what you have?
The latter is an indication that therapy is working.
As our thoughts start to change, our behaviors change too. Therapy is all about building habits and coping mechanisms to help you combat your mental illnesses.
Have you started creating healthy boundaries? Are you taking care of your personal hygiene more frequently? Are you spending more time appreciating yourself?
All of these are behaviors that could indicate a positive change in therapy.
An improved relationship with your spouse, family members, and friends could also indicate that therapy is working. Do you have relationships that used to be contentious that are now more peaceful and cooperative? Less conflict in your relationships could mean that you’re using your conflict resolution skills.
If you’ve noticed an uptick in your general feelings of overall satisfaction, it could be a sign that therapy is working. This is a hard one to define. Just because you’ve had a few good days doesn’t mean your cured, right?
That’s why we ask that you look at the overall patterns you’ve noticed. Are you having more positive days than negative days?
No amount of therapy will ever ensure that you never have days that bring you down. But it will help you develop tools and coping skills to handle it better.
One great benchmark for improvement in therapy is if your diagnosis changes. Some disorders don’t ever go away, no matter how long you see a therapist. But if you’re seeing a therapist for depression and anxiety and your diagnosis changes, it’s a definite sign that you’re improving.
These are just a few of the metrics that some people use to determine if therapy is working. It isn’t the same for everyone. In fact, some of the more important measurements are frustrating because they aren’t exactly tangible.
Every therapy plan is different. If you’re receiving incite-centered therapy, success looks like a deepened insight. You have a better understanding of yourself, how you feel, and the way you behave.
Another helpful measurement to look at is if you’re using the tools your therapist is teaching you. Are the skills you’re learning in your sessions starting to help you outside of them as well?
These things all indicate a behavior change, however, they aren’t quite as objective. They’re difficult to measure.
Another sign that therapy is working is that you feel the need to be seen less often. If your problems no longer feel as urgent and you feel like you’re able to cope with your issues on your own, you may be progressing.
Keep in mind that just because you feel like you’re ready to take on the world without therapy doesn’t mean it’s true. Our brains are the things that are sick when we’re dealing with mental illness. We may not always have the clearest picture when it comes to knowing when to seek out help.
In order to help you determine your success in therapy, your therapist might suggest keeping a diary centered around your symptoms and how often they happen.
Your diary should keep track of your emotions, your behaviors, your interactions, and the coping skills you use. For example, were you faced with the desire to self-harm or did you have intrusive thoughts about suicide? What coping skills did you use to keep yourself calm in a difficult situation?
It’s important to remember that therapy won’t always be pushing you towards these goals. Sometimes you’ll feel worse, and that’s okay. Progress isn’t linear and sometimes we have to dig deep and really open ourselves up to painful vulnerability if we want to heal.
The end goal for therapy isn’t to be happy, foregoing all other emotions. It just means that you’re going to be able to experience these emotions without completely losing sight of reality.
Never be afraid to ask your therapist what success in therapy looks like for you. It’s so hard to define and measure success when it comes to treating and healing mental illness. So, discuss your treatment goals with your therapist directly and always come to them with the questions you have as you move forward.
For more information on how you can experience the benefits of therapy, contact us today.