Does Therapy Work? Five Signs It’s Making a Difference

Indian coupleVenting to your therapist about your stress can provide welcome respite from the chaos of daily life. A therapist isn’t just a paid friend, though, and making progress is key. Change is often slow, and outside influences such as difficult parents or an angry spouse can conceal the ways in which therapy improves your behavior and thoughts. If you’re not sure whether to continue with your current therapist or find someone new, it’s time to evaluate what—if anything—therapy is doing for you. Here are some good signs to help you tell when therapy is working:

Your Therapist Helps You Track Progress

Effective and ethical therapists don’t take your money only to offer nothing in return. Consequently, some of the best therapists devise a treatment plan and then actively encourage you to track your progress. If you’re struggling with depression, for example, your therapist might ask you to track your mood each day. If your therapist encourages you to measure your progress, it’s a hopeful sign. And if your measurements indicate that things are getting better, sticking with therapy may be the best way to see long-term positive changes.

You Feel Better about Yourself

Therapy won’t change the people around you, and it won’t magically get you a new job, a new house, or a better-behaved child. It can change the way you respond to stress and the steps you take to achieve the life you want, though. If you find that you’re feeling better about yourself—even when you’re not perfect and your life is stressful—then therapy is doing you plenty of good.

You’re Not Dependent on Your Therapist

Particularly if you struggle with a serious challenge such as the end of a relationship, major depression, or the death of your spouse, you may rely on therapy as your source of comfort for the first few weeks. But healthy therapy does not breed dependence. You should become less dependent on your therapist over time. If you note that you’re feeling better but attribute it all to your therapist, or if you feel like you’d fall apart if you had to switch providers, therapy might be making things worse.

Your Negative Emotions Are Decreasing

Your emotions affect your behavior, and your behavior affects how people react to you, which will further affect your emotions. Therapy’s job is to intervene in this cycle by helping you feel better and therefore do better. If you notice a decrease in negative emotions, therapy is going well. Try tracking your feelings by ranking them on a scale of 1 to 10 each day or keeping a log that notes how frequently you experience negative emotions.

Others Notice Your Changes

It’s unfair to evaluate yourself according to what others think. If you’re making positive changes, though, the people closest to you are sure to notice. Some might react positively, such as when your spouse tells you you’re coping much better with stress. Other people may consider your changes to be a negative event. Your son might dislike it that you’re more consistent with discipline, for example, and your best friend might think you’re too assertive. No matter how others react to your changes, if they comment on them, it’s a positive sign.

If you’re ready to try therapy for the first time or have decided it’s time to move on to a new therapist, GoodTherapy.org can help. Click here to find a therapist.

References:

  1. Crossing, K. P. (2012). 50 signs of good therapy. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/50-signs-good-therapy-0110119/
  2. Elejalde-Ruiz, A. (2011, March 23). Is it time to leave your therapist? Retrieved from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-03-23/health/sc-health-0323-fire-your-therapist-20110323_1_patient-therapist-relationship-end-therapy-issues

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 9 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • Maranda

    Maranda

    May 17th, 2014 at 6:04 AM

    I have no doubt in my mind at all that therapy works. This is something that will teach you to be a stronger person and that will open you up to the possibilites within that you may not have been aware of before.

    Therapy has saved me, saved my marriage and I would never be against trying it out for any problem that came along and I did not know how to work through or resolve on my own. I am not dependent on it, but it is something that helps me to map out what is really going on and then once the problem is identified then I have a clearer sense because of going to therapy of how I can resolve that problem. I am not looking for answers from someone else all of the time, sometimes just a little reassurance that I am on the right path, which is something that I think many of us could benefit from from time to time.

  • Jackie

    Jackie

    May 17th, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    Of course these things are going to vary a little from person to eprson, but the most important thing for me was that I actually began to like myself again. I wasn’t so down on myself, even when things ddin’t go right,, and I had a little faith again that things would and could work out even if it didn’t feel like it. Therapy is part of that proces sof learning to love yourself again even if there is no one else who does. It gives you the strength to know that that doesn’t matter and that the most important thing is to finally love and forgive yourself.

  • will j

    will j

    May 19th, 2014 at 3:45 AM

    The thing to remember is that you can’t compare how therapy is helping you to how it is maybe helping others. This is not something that everyone is going to process in the same way, so don’t think that just because you haven’t done this or that that this means it isn’t working for you.
    You know how you felt when you very first started therapy and you know how you are feeling now. Do you feel like improvements are being made in your life? Do you feel more confident when you have to take on challenges and things in the past that would have made you uncomfortable? If so then that shows that you are making strides in the right direction.

  • Jessie

    Jessie

    May 19th, 2014 at 2:27 PM

    I haven’t ever thought about keeping track of my moods, what can set them off etc but that sounds like a great way to track progress through your therapy sessions and to also guage how you are doing on your own.

  • Connor B

    Connor B

    May 20th, 2014 at 3:49 AM

    There was a time in my life where i was so concerned with what other people were doing and saying that I couldn’t live for me or live my life to the fullest. Therapy is what helped me conquer and move past most of that. I don’t really care that much anymore what other people say and do.
    Therapy has given me the tools to recognize that the thing that I need to focus on is living in the moment and living my life for me.
    It is not about what others say and do, it is my own actions that will create a better life for me. I dont; think that I would ahve had to ability to come to this recognition on my own without the help of my therapist. She helped me see that I was letting my visions of others and what I imagined that they might think about me or what they might have get in the way of what I wanted to become. That was huge for me.

  • shawnee

    shawnee

    May 21st, 2014 at 8:28 AM

    If you started therapy hating each other but now you can actually tolerate being in the same room together then you should know that it is working!

  • Brystin

    Brystin

    May 23rd, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    therapy works but you do have to be patient and give it a chance, you did not become who you are oevrnight so the chanegs won’t happen that fast either with work and persistence you can get there

  • KJ

    KJ

    May 24th, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    I knew that this was a good step for me when I stopped having to always talk myself into leaving the house. I was okay with going places with other people, trying new things, and I stopped being so afraid of failing. This was such a huge step for me because all my life I have lived thinking that I wa snot as good as other people, that I didn’t have the right look, the right anything, but my therapist helped me to see that I have so much more to offer than I ever thought that I did. This was not an easy journey because there were TONS of emotional baggage that I needed to shed along the way and I know that I am still a work in progress. But it gives me hope though that eventually I will be bad baggage free because I am so much further along now than I ever thoughts was possible for me.

  • Raffaella

    Raffaella

    July 12th, 2015 at 1:24 AM

    My main changes after 2 years of therapy: I’m more confident and no longer afraid of speaking out; I rarely panic about things such as physical symptoms, and if I do it’s for a short time; I congratulate myself on little achievements and fully give myself permission of enjoying the things I like whenever I need/want to.
    I agree on the points stated in the article but I’m not sure people notice change. Apparently I’ve always given the idea of a calm, positive person, even when I’m not calm or positive at all. But then, I care less about others’ opinions.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

  Notify me when new comments are added.

  Subscribe me to the GoodTherapy.org public newsletter.

* Indicates required field.

 

Advanced Search

Search Our Blog