Venting 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.
- Crossing, K. P. (2012). 50 signs of good therapy. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/50-signs-good-therapy-0110119/
- 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
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