Dear Therapist is for informational purposes only, the questions and queries are sent in from our readers. This column does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
How do I know therapy is REALLY working?
Let's discuss therapy
Effective therapy is un-layering your emotional self, being able to feel comfortable with your emotions is reflective of progress in therapy. There are a few experiences you will have in therapy, with your psychologist, that are indicative of progress in therapy. Each of these experiences contribute to a greater sense of self-awareness and this in turn aids in your ability to break free from maladaptive patterns of behavior and thought.
Self-awareness is key in therapy, you know you’re inching closer to it with the increase in comfort you feel with your psychologist. Honest and open sharing, which takes time, is reflective of progress in therapy. Your able to freely share, and connect only with yourself and not think about the other person in the room (your psychologist).
A key component in sharing, with your psychologist, is that you to learn to listen to your self as you speak. Your psychologist, through their form of introspective questioning, often facilitates this form of self-awareness. In this process of sharing, you will start to identify more with your experiences, emotions, and thoughts.
Context is important in therapy, and it is an important ingredient that helps your psychologist empathize with you. However, the biggest indicator of progress in theapy is noted when you are able to shift from context to talking about your thoughts and feelings. Progress in therapy is noted if you are able to identify your thoughts and feelings, process them and understanding from where they stem. Awareness of this in the moment often alters the way we react to situations enabling us to make more mindful and healthy choices for ourselves.
Being mindful of ourselves takes time but clients come in expecting miracles in a session, but therapy is a journey where one has to be patient. It is like nurturing a healthy friendship – it requires some time and understanding to grow. Growth in therapy is rarely linear but is often punctuated with highs and lows. This means that in one session we might feel like we’re making headway, only to go to the next and feel like you’re back to where you started. Change is a process and sometimes it’s necessary to go back two steps in order to move forward stronger again.
Experiencing only highs or lows in therapy is reflective of ineffective therapy because you have neither challenged your maladaptive patterns nor identified constructive ways to cope with them. Being able to identify maladaptive patterns and the thoughts that contribute to therapy is a high. But what follows is often a struggle to implement an aware reaction to it. The awareness of what to do and executing the how is often met with some resistance. Like a child learning to ride a bicycle, you will fall off and get a few bruises but, in effective therapy, you will get back on and try again.
The aware self may not always be someone you like, but therapy helps you come to peace with yourself, and make more informed decisions as you navigate through life. It’s difficult to know how much progress you’re making when you first start therapy and thus I suggest holding out for at least six sessions to get a proper feel for the kinds of changes it can bring into your life.
Lastly, therapy is all about you and you should never feel afraid to take charge. If in doubt, discuss with your psychologist your progress in therapy and what is and isn’t working for you. Your psychologist will only be happy to hear from you on how the process of therapy is going for you.
She believes emotional and mental health care are at the very core of us experiencing happiness in our life. Her qualifications include a Masters in Clinical Psychology and in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Priyanka enjoys working with young adults and understanding life as it changes with intrusions like the internet and the pandemic. Above everything else her true love is homemade chocolate cake.