You have been dutifully attending your therapy sessions and taking in your therapist’s feedback and guidance.. Week after week, you show up to the office and share your stories, secrets, and fears.
But are you getting better? Is therapy working? These questions nag at you. You wonder if you’re making reasonable progress, and you keep asking yourself if you’re getting the most out of therapy. Therapy, by nature, is often an abstract and subjective process. Therefore, there isn’t a perfect answer to determine if it’s working in the ways it should. However, there are a few key points to consider.
You Feel Safe With Your Therapist
Many times, even the mere thought of sharing our vulnerable selves with someone else feels frightening and impossible. We tend to guard our emotions and conceal our true selves because we don’t want to feel rejected.
Therapy may not eliminate those fears completely. However, feeling safe with your therapist is a good sign. It means you experience a sense of inherent trust, compassion, and empathy. It also means that you can feel vulnerable with another person.
When you can feel vulnerable with even one person, it often creates a path for vulnerability with other significant people in your life. And the more you can embrace revealing your true self, the more likely you are to harness greater confidence and self-worth.
You Look Forward To Your Sessions
Good therapy means feeling engaged and proactive in your treatment. It also means that you enjoy talking to your therapist. You appreciate their company, and you feel supported in your treatment.
That doesn’t mean the work isn't well, work. Therapy can be highly uncomfortable and downright painful, and you won’t always like what happens in your sessions.
After all, self-exploration often entails a reasonable amount of confrontation and challenging your defense mechanisms. Many therapists will tell their clients that it’s normal to feel worse before you start feeling better. That said, in successful therapy, you find yourself looking forward to the work (even if it’s challenging).
You want to be challenged. You want to learn how to break down your defenses and work on your self-proclaimed weaknesses. You want viable solutions for change and growth.
You Feel Inspired
Therapy represents an intimate relationship. A good therapist acts as your guide who can help you make healthy lifestyle changes. They can also help you identify underlying causes of symptoms and provide strategies for making healthier decisions and building better relationships. Therapy should equip you with the skills to manage symptoms, reduce stress, and improve your quality of life.
With that in mind, good therapy means you tend to feel rejuvenated and encouraged. You leave your sessions feeling excited and ready to take on your day (and your life!).
Your Self-Esteem Is Improving
Whether you enter therapy for social anxiety, grief, substance use, or sexual trauma, most clients face the overarching issue of low self-esteem. They feel guilty and ashamed, and they struggle with self-worth and the internal capacity for accepting themselves.
Low self-esteem can impact all areas of functioning. It can affect how intimate you feel in relationships, whether you pursue a job promotion, and if you decide to lose weight or take a trip abroad. In many cases, low self-esteem will hold you back: it makes you afraid of the world because you are afraid others will perceive you the way you perceive you.
Improvements in self-esteem are one of the easiest ways to tell if therapy is working. No, this doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly love yourself unconditionally. But, you should start feeling less guilt and shame. You should start feeling more confident in how you present yourself in the world.
You Are Taking More Risks
Many people enter therapy during some point of stagnation. They may feel hopeless or dejected- they may assume things will never get better.
In good therapy, you start feeling empowered to take control of your life. You begin to change your thinking, which makes you inevitably change your actions and behaviors. You no longer remain a victim to your circumstances.
These risks don’t have to be grandiose to be effective. Healthy risks may mean setting boundaries with someone who has been harmful to you. It may mean signing up for a class that you’ve always been interested in, or finally having that difficult conversation you've been avoiding.
Is Therapy Working? Final Thoughts
Engaging in therapy involves an investment of your time and money. You owe to yourself to ask: Is therapy working? Am I making the changes I want to make - at the pace I want to make them?
Sometimes, therapy is also about letting go of particular expectations and control. It’s about surrendering to the process and trusting that the growth happens when it’s meant to happen. Likewise, if you’re still unsure, talk to your therapist! See what they have to say about your treatment.
Are you on the fence about whether or not to start therapy? Want more information about how it can help you on your journey? Let's talk!