How to know if therapy is working

If you have never had counselling or psychotherapy before, starting therapy can often feel daunting and uncomfortable. You may have heard stories, read articles, or even formed opinions based on portrayals of therapy and therapists. Shows like Couples Therapy on BBC, or Shrinking on Apple TV give us an idea of what it might be like. But what does good therapy truly feel like? Though I believe the definition of 'good therapy' is entirely personal, I’m going to share what I think might be the answer to this based on my experience as a therapist.


Understanding the therapy process

Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all solution; it's a highly personalised journey. I believe that a good therapeutic experience hinges on the unique relationship between you and your therapist. It's a space where you feel heard, respected, and valued. It's an environment that fosters growth, self-discovery, and healing.

Some of the ways that you will know that the therapy process is moving in the right direction include:

Feeling heard and understood

In a good therapy session, you feel that your therapist listens to you without judgement. They seek to understand your perspective and validate your feelings, making you feel seen and heard. They keep the focus on you and what matters to you.

A safe and trusting environment

A crucial element of effective therapy is a sense of safety. You should feel comfortable sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings, knowing that your privacy and confidentiality are paramount.

Collaborative goal setting

I hate to break this to you but therapy isn’t about being told what to do. It's about working collaboratively with your therapist to set goals that are meaningful. This could range from managing anxiety to improving relationships or exploring aspects of your identity.

Navigating challenges and celebrating progress

Therapy isn't always easy. It often involves delving into difficult emotions and confronting uncomfortable truths. However, a good therapist guides you through these challenges, equipping you with coping strategies and insights.

Overcoming challenges

A significant part of therapy is learning how to face and overcome personal challenges. Your therapist is there to support you in developing and finding healthy ways to cope with life's difficulties.

Appreciating growth

Any small step towards your aims is a victory. Good therapy acknowledges progress, no matter how small, and helps you recognise your own growth and strength.

However, it is important to add that good therapy isn’t going to eliminate every challenge you face, but rather empower you with the necessary tools and perspective to handle them with greater ease and confidence. 

It’s not always as clear as A to B – sometimes the route is less straightforward

Progress in therapy isn't always a straight path, and it's not uncommon to feel like you're taking steps backwards or finding some aspects challenging to navigate. 

Many people experience these fluctuations during their therapy journey. But, sharing these feelings with your therapist can be immensely beneficial. They can use this insight to support you more effectively, offer rational explanations, or make necessary adjustments. 

A key aspect of good therapy is that it offers a space where you can freely provide feedback and discuss your experience, without the worry of upsetting or offending your therapist.

The transformative impact of therapy

Good therapy can be transformative. It's not just about solving problems; it's also about fostering a deeper understanding of yourself and your place in the world. This journey can lead to:

  • Enhanced self-awareness: Therapy helps you understand your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours more deeply. This self-awareness is a powerful tool for personal growth.
  • Improved relationships: By understanding yourself better, you're also equipped to improve your relationships with others, whether personal, professional, or casual.
  • Greater life satisfaction: As you work through your issues and develop new coping skills, you're likely to experience a greater sense of fulfilment and satisfaction in life.

Embarking on therapy is a courageous step towards self-improvement and well-being. If you're considering therapy or are curious about how it can benefit you, why not get in touch with me to see how I can help? As an empathic and experienced therapist, I am here to support you on your journey. Remember, taking the first step is often the most important one.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London WC1N & Altrincham WA15
Written by William Smith, MSc, BSc, MBACP (Accred)
London WC1N & Altrincham WA15

William (he/him), an experienced therapist, specialises in relationships, anxiety, stress, and LGBTQ+ issues. With a commitment to creating a nurturing environment, he guides adults through their journeys of self-discovery and emotional wellness.

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