How Do I Know If Therapy Is Helping?
The importance of developing a trusting relationship with a therapist is crucial. The length of time this takes will vary depending on your personality, reasons for seeking therapy, and your history with attachment figures and other close relationships.
This deep level of trust takes time. It is necessary to find a therapist that allows you to feel comfortable and respected. Your therapist should also invite you to speak up any time you may feel misunderstood or hurt by something that occurs in therapy. These are called ruptures in the therapeutic relationship. By speaking about them and working through them, repair occurs, a critical step in the therapeutic process.
Therapy is about taking the time to look for and treat the source of the wound. It is not always as clear if psychotherapy is 'working.' Measuring success (a word I hate to use regarding therapy just for the record), will vary greatly depending on the reason for seeking treatment, individual goals, as well as the type of psychotherapy practiced.
It is not uncommon to feel worse after starting therapy and doesn't mean psychotherapy isn't working. It may be a sign that old feelings are coming to the surface. If you find that you are in crisis or unable to cope with overwhelming emotions, it may be that therapy is moving too quickly. These are issues that are important to discuss with your therapist. You may need to put the breaks on thinking and talking about traumatic events and focus on safety and stabilization.
Asking yourself some of the following questions may help to identify if therapy is helping with your thoughts and behaviours:
Ability to Self Soothe
Are you better able to understand, recognize, and name your feelings or emotions?
Are you more aware of things that trigger you and the ways you respond? These may be related to trauma or any negative feelings from your past.
Do you get upset less often?
When you do get upset, does it feel less intense?
When you get upset, do you feel able to take care of yourself?
If you get upset, can you recognize when something from the past has affected the present?
Are you feeling more content in your life?
Are you able to set boundaries with people?
Have you been able to develop more positive and effective ways of coping?
Do you feel more in control of your own life?
Do you feel better equipped to handle challenges that arise in your life?
Self-awareness and insight often feel less tangible as they are challenging to measure. These occur on a continuum and develop over time. Eventually, you will find that you understand yourself, others, and the world around you more than you did before starting therapy. These questions might help to assess insight and self-awareness:
Do you have more insight into the events in your life and how they affected you?
Do you have a better understanding of the behaviours you developed as a means to cope and adapt to life?
Can you understand how old ways of coping may be unhelpful now?
Are you able to see patterns in your behaviour?
The most helpful experiences in therapy and the greatest positive change is seen with consistent attendance over a sustained period of time. The change process cannot be rushed. No matter how hard you work at it or how great your therapist is, the brain and the brain and your unconscious need time to process.