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Is Therapy Actually Helping You? Here’s How To Know If You & Your Therapist Are Making Progress

Seeking professional help is one of the most common advice given to people who may be struggling with their mental health. Because of this, some may see therapy as a fast solution to solving deep-seated issues. And soon, they may start questioning the ‘efficacy’ of psychotherapy. This is a topic that psychiatrist and professor Jessica A. Gold and other professionals seek to shed light on below.

Defining What Successful Therapy Is

There are 14 different types of recognized mental health professionals in the United States, all trained to facilitate various kinds of counseling or therapy.

Unfortunately, giving a one-off definition of what successful therapy is difficult, according to Gold. This is because different mental health service providers and therapists have different views on what success is. Definitions for it will also differ depending on the illness in question and the kind of therapy used to treat it. As psychologist Kristine Luce explains, there are more than 200 currently classified mental health conditions. What more, some people choose to go to therapy simply as a means of self-improvement.

However, this doesn’t mean that there are no ways for both mental health professionals and patients to assess developments made thanks to therapy or counseling.

Assessing Progress

Positive changes in one’s sleeping patterns can be a sign that a person is making progress in bettering their mental health.

Looking at things simply, successful therapy typically entails the decreasing of symptoms of a mental illness or a feeling of accomplishing one’s goals. For example, people who may have started seeing a professional looking to address anxiety issues can assess their progress by monitoring the frequency of their panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms over the course of the sessions.

On the other hand, therapists could also use more objective measurements to measure changes and progress in their patients. One common tool they use is the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), which is a scale that shows the severity of depression. Scales can also be utilized by patients on their own to keep a close track of their everyday feelings and symptoms. This collection of information can be helpful for both parties when it comes to moving forward and understanding a patient’s patterns and triggers.

An Ironic Side

Experts say that letting yourself experience all your emotions will lead to progress.

Meanwhile, experts also note that there are cases when feeling worse can also be a sign of success although it may feel counterintuitive at first. Luce emphasizes that change can be hard and that ‘good therapy’ won’t always feel good. After all, the process does require patients to face their personal issues and change long-standing patterns of behavior. A common misconception is that simply being happy is the end goal of going to therapy. At the end of the day, being in a constant state of happiness is not realistic.


Read on to find out how you can measure the progress, or lack thereof, that you’re making by going to therapy.

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