The ‘Year in Review’ of Oneself and Why It Matters

Teen girl writing in diaryChristmas cards are in the mail and a new year is around the corner. The timing is prime for personal reflection or the annual “year in review.” Even social media is in on the phenomena with links to viral family Christmas videos and comprehensive lists of your most important posts.

If you value progress and growth, taking stock of where you’ve been and where you hope to go can be really helpful. I’m not talking about how you measure up against others, but how you measure up against YOURSELF—your own hopes and dreams for where you’d be at this point in your life.

We don’t speculate about that too often; since life is coming at us fast and each day is full of responsibilities, we aren’t allowed to pause. Sifting through the photos from the previous year might inspire some internal consideration. Or maybe it’s the New Year that prompts some goal setting for you.

Goals IN Psychotherapy

Sitting down in a psychotherapy office provides the perfect backdrop for this. That 50-minute session often allows the space a person needs to figure out what they’d like to change about their situation and identify the steps toward achieving that change.

New clients often experience some relief right away. There are many reasons for this, including the catharsis that comes from being free to air your personal story (without a follow-up story from others), or the feeling of empowerment that comes from finally finding some time to dedicate to self-improvement.

Then there are the changes that follow those initial meetings. Established research studies show evidence that people typically show improvement within 10-20 sessions (Schnyder, 2009).

Of course there are variations, depending on personal preference, what you are seeking treatment for, and how long you’ve waited to seek help (early intervention may move more quickly).

But a good psychotherapist should be asking you for regular feedback about how you think things are going and coordinating the pace and experience of sessions with your own personal style.

While this can be done verbally, there’s also some tracking tools that help you visualize your progress towards your goals—similar to the idea of a workout or food diary.

Goals FOR Psychotherapy

Some helpful tools to assist with that process of reflection include a mutually-agreed-upon treatment plan with your therapist, and inventories or assessments you fill out from time to time.

These may be a paper form you fill out yourself, or an interview you do with your therapist. When you start treatment you might have done some kind of structured diagnostic interview. Or, if you didn’t, you can request something like this so you have a “baseline” for your experience. This is a point of reference to see what changes as you engage in therapy.

The counselor might be utilizing structured diagnostic interviews like the “Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale,” the “Symptom Checklist-90-R,” the “Beck Depression Inventory,” the “Beck Anxiety Inventory,” or others. There are many options depending on what’s going on in your particular situation.

After a certain number of sessions you can measure your reported symptoms with the same assessment tool to see if there’s been a reduction in what you originally sought treatment for.

Your therapist might have even created their own assessment, which may ask you to rate on a scale of 1-10 how you are functioning in several areas of your life, where your symptoms stand, and even how you rate your connection with your therapist (this is often a key component to change for a person).

Don’t be shy with your answers. These tools are for your personal medical file and will only help inform your treatment and empower you to understand exactly what’s occurring in the health care you are receiving. Measurement and reflection can be powerful tools and motivators for change.

Schnyder, U (2009). Future perspectives in psychotherapy. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 259, Suppl 2:S123-S128.

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Sarah Lebo, LPC, CADCI, therapist in Portland, Oregon

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

  • Leave a Comment
  • aleene


    December 31st, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    There are not too many times that I feel comfortable reflecting on my mistakes but when I am with my therapist this is my time when it feels alright. Not that she excuses me for any of it but she does help me work out why I might have done the things that I did and make the choices that I made and how I could avoid that the next time. She is like the little angel on my should when all I want to listen to is the devil on the other one.

  • CONNIe J

    CONNIe J

    January 2nd, 2014 at 4:04 AM

    It’s never a bad time to take a little inventory of yourself and the new year seems like as good a time as any to get started. For many of us it’s this benchmark, a kind of reminder that this is a time to get started on some work that we could have been putting of doing for a while now, and why not try to make this year better than the ones in past? It can be small things or they can be large, but most of us want to make some kinds of changes for the better and for me this always seems like the best time to get started and get moving!

  • Logan


    January 3rd, 2014 at 4:06 AM

    most will avoid this like the plague because they already know that they won’t like what they see and what looking so deep is bound to reveal

  • deedra


    January 7th, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    Do you think that there is truth that everyone can use a year in therapy, whether you think that you have pressing problems or not? I guess I kind of think that, that there is going to be some benefit for everyone to sit down and talk to someone objectively at different stages of their lives because I don’t think that it’s ever going to hurt, but I would love to have a professional opinion about that too. I would never want someone to think that I was just wasting his or her time.

  • Sarah Lebo, LPC, CADCI

    Sarah Lebo, LPC, CADCI

    January 7th, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    Thanks for all your comments. @Logan: you are right, often it’s very intimidating for people to sit down and take an inventory of what’s going on in their lives — fortunately the privacy of a therapy room often helps relieve some of those feelings! Some discomfort with what you see in yourself typically precipitates real change. @deedra: This is a GREAT question. First off, you are never “wasting” a therapist’s time, since meeting others where they are at in life is what we love to do and what we are trained (and paid) to do. However, I will admit that there are some clients who don’t necessarily “need” psychotherapy. When I sit down with them, they are functioning very well in their lives with no pressing problems and just, as you said, wondered about talking with someone to get an objective opinion. This is where it’s important for the THERAPIST to be doing some evaluation and assessment, because we also do not want to be taking advantage of someone and continuing to take their money (if they are already achieving some of the goals they set out to do). So, basically it’s another conversation between client and therapist, a check-in where we talk about how well the person’s doing and make a plan for how many more sessions (or starting to taper off by spacing out the sessions more and more) to eventually conclude the relationship. It’s hard to put a timeline on that – you mentioned a year, but I’ve seen some people come in and hit the ground running, benefiting from just 8-10 weeks of sessions and then coming back for random “tune-ups” following that.

  • Scott


    January 13th, 2014 at 3:52 AM

    Knowing what you want to get out of therapy is just as important in my opinion as some of the other stuff. If you go in with no clear goal in mind of what you wish to accomplish while you are there I think is going to leave you feeling at a loss, maybe even a little empty once the process starts. It’s always nice to have an outcome in mind. You don’t have to attach any kind of timeframe to it, just something that is meaningful to you that will feel real to you once it has been achieved.

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