Therapy is often considered a mysterious process, leaving many people unsure about what it actually is and how to make significant progress while in treatment.
At its core, therapy is both a relationship and a process. The process itself is dictated by a therapist’s style and a client’s wishes for their journey in therapy. The relationship (the single most important change factor in therapy) is the process of collaboration between client and therapist. This relationship is known as the therapeutic alliance.
Given the highly individual nature of therapy, and the fact that you can’t step outside of it for an objective view, it can be difficult to figure out if you’re making the progress. Here are some options to consider as you move forward:
Revisit Your Initial Goal
As a therapist, I can tell you that therapy may often change direction or focus. It is common to address competing issues as they come up in your life — and that’s OK! You may need extra support on those issues as they come to the forefront of your day-to-day experience. Sometimes, however, this can lead us to lose sight of our initial goals and needs in therapy.
Revisiting those initial goals for treatment is an important first step in assessing your progress in therapy. Review goals or notes that you made for yourself prior to therapy to get a better sense of how much, or how little, you’ve progressed since beginning your therapeutic journey.
Start A Conversation with Your Therapist
Most therapists attempt to regularly check in with their clients on how you’re feeling about the process. Sometimes, your therapist may forget to check in (I know I’ve been guilty of this as a therapist) when we’re focused on providing week-to-week support.
Opening up a conversation with your therapist about the process of therapy can be a great moment of transition While it’s scary to broach the subject, please don’t feel intimidated. How you think and feel you’ve been doing in therapy is a great source of information for your therapist. Simply saying, “I’d like to talk about how my therapy has been going and get your thoughts too,” is a good way to broach the subject.
You might share your own thoughts about the progress of your goals, and consider asking your therapist their assessment on your progress in treatment as well. Your therapist will share honest feedback with you that you can use in the next phase of your journey.
Track Your Mood or Symptoms
Checking in on changes in your mood or symptoms is one concrete way to measure progress in therapy. For instance, if you started therapy to more effectively manage anxiety, tracking your mood periodically throughout therapy you may provide data on how your anxiety levels have changed throughout your process. If you notice fewer racing thoughts or less worry, then it’s a signal that therapy is on the right path.
If you haven’t seen a decrease in symptoms (or improvements in your mood) then it’s a sign that something about your therapy isn’t quite right. Armed with this knowledge you and your therapist can have a honest conversation about different ways to approach your anxiety and treatment overall.
Also Ask Your Loved Ones
If you are fortunate to have friends and loved ones by your side throughout your therapy journey, they can also offer up some powerful feedback about their perceptions of your progress as well. Those closest to you are likely going to be keen observers of your mood and behavioral changes at home — and social settings potentially — that you and your therapist may not be aware of.
It can be difficult to ask others to weigh in and open yourself up to this kind of feedback, so be mindful to only invite trusted people close to you to weigh in. You can also invite them to talk to your therapist directly if it would be too difficult to get their feedback directly from them.
Progress in therapy is tough to monitor as we are not simply a cluster of symptoms. Our moods change depending on our environment and other factors all the time. But, if you are concerned about your progress take some time to zoom out and consider these approaches to ensure that you get the most out of your therapy experience.