While therapy can be life-changing, it can also feel challenging. You may wonder why you haven’t noticed any results yet, or even feel unmotivated after a while. But the truth is, progress takes time, and the process of therapy looks unique to everyone.
This post explores a few common questions you may have about the process of change in psychotherapy.
Can you tell me how to fix it?
Clients often seek advice and ask their therapists when they first start working together to tell them how to fix the issues they are dealing with. Maybe you want to make sure it’s worth your time, or you want to see results asap and move on. But if you're like most people, you'll quickly learn that it isn't that simple. It takes time to slow down, check-in with yourself, and notice how you're doing. Your therapist views each session as an opportunity to empower you.
Utilizing the proper techniques and learning therapeutic tools can be beneficial in helping you see that it's your responsibility and be open to change. Your therapist is more of a guide, they'll walk next to you, but you have the power to make the change.
How can I tell if therapy is working?
You'll know that therapy is effective when you notice a change in your state of mind. Maybe you'll realize that you're starting to change certain behaviors instead of acting upon impulse, or you're communicating more effectively with others rather than saying the first thing that comes to mind.
Or, it may be that you start to navigate and sort through your thoughts in a constructive way or feel confident in applying a suggestion given to you by your therapist. Often, other people start to notice your progress before it becomes clear to you. Consider checking in with yourself from time to time to monitor your progress.
When will I be “done” with therapy?
Depending on your needs, goals, and resources, the amount of time spent in treatment looks different to everyone. The number of recommended sessions differs by condition and type of therapy. However, the majority of people in psychotherapy report feeling better after a couple of months.
In the same way that you go to the gym and exercise for your physical health, therapy is like exercise for our mind and mental health. In addition, it’s important to remember that change will happen at your pace. There is no specific speed of change and meaningful and lasting change, growth, and healing happens at different times for everyone. Remember: it's not a sprint. It's a marathon, and your therapist, your coach.
Your role in the process of change
Your commitment to the process is critical. Therapy isn't always easy; it takes strength and courage to work through different areas of your life. Many beautiful moments and realizations happen in the therapy room, but it's your responsibility as a client to reflect and work on these ideas outside of therapy.
At the end of the day, change is the goal of therapy. As you work with your therapist, you'll notice that you start to process and understand things differently. It might take a while, but when it happens, you'll know it.
Priscila Norris, MS, MSW, LCSW, RYT
Psychotherapist, Yoga Teacher.