How to Tell If Therapy is Working: What to Look For

Image of a doubtful dog, symbolizing the uncertainty and self-reflection involved in assessing if therapy is working

Picture this: you’ve just left your therapist’s office, and as you sip on your overpriced but oddly comforting latte, you start to wonder, "Is this even working?" If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. Many people question the effectiveness of their therapy at some point

Therapy often isn't a series of dramatic revelations like in movies. Instead, it's more like peeling an onion—layer by layer, you uncover more about yourself. Sometimes, it's even a little teary-eyed process. But how do you know if you're moving forward and not just going in circles?

We have put down a few points that we think are good indicators to know if therapy is helping you. This isn’t an exhaustive list but it’s a good place to start if you’re wondering if therapy is helping.

  1. Feeling Heard and Supported

Feeling validated and understood in therapy is crucial. If you leave your sessions feeling heard and supported, it’s a good sign. Do you feel comfortable discussing difficult topics with your therapist? Do you feel that your therapist truly understands you?

They might not agree with everything you say but they’ll still attempt to understand where you’re coming from.

  1. Increased Self-Awareness

Think of self-awareness as upgrading from a blurry webcam to HD clarity. You start seeing things about yourself that you never noticed before. Therapy should help you gain deeper insights into your thoughts, behaviors, and patterns. Are you finding that you're more aware of your triggers and how you react to them? Are you understanding more about why you think and feel the way you do? Increased self-awareness is a strong indicator of therapeutic progress.

  1. Achieving Therapy Goals

At the beginning of therapy, you likely set some goals with your therapist. These could be specific (like reducing anxiety attacks) or more general (like improving self-esteem). Regularly reviewing these goals with your therapist can help you see how far you've come. Are you closer to achieving these goals? Are new goals being set as you make progress?

  1. Behavioral Changes

Noticeable changes in your behavior are a clear sign of progress for some individuals. Are you taking healthier risks? Are you trying out new coping strategies? Behavioral changes, even small ones, indicate that you're applying what you've learned in therapy to your everyday life.

  1. Better Emotional Regulation

Effective therapy should help you manage your emotions better. Are you finding that you can calm yourself down when you’re upset? Are you able to recognize and label your emotions more accurately?

  1. Improvement in Daily Functioning

One of the clearest signs that therapy is working is an improvement in your daily functioning. Are you finding it easier to get out of bed in the morning? Is your work performance improving? Do you have more energy and motivation to engage in activities you enjoy? These changes might be subtle at first but paying attention to how you handle day-to-day tasks can provide a good indication of progress.

  1. Feedback from Others

Sometimes, those around you might notice changes before you do. Feedback from friends, family, or colleagues can be an external validation of your progress. Do they notice that you're handling stress better? External feedback can provide valuable insights into your growth.

Remember, therapy is a journey, not a destination. Progress can be slow and non-linear. There might be times when you feel like you're not making any headway, and that's okay. It's important to communicate openly with your therapist about how you're feeling and any concerns you might have.

Just like peeling an onion, therapy requires patience, persistence, and sometimes a few tears. But with each layer you uncover, you're getting closer to a better understanding of yourself. So, keep peeling that onion and trust the process.

You’ve got this!