Taking Therapy? Here’s How You Can Track Your Progress
These are some questions you can ask yourself to gauge approximately how far you’ve come.
When any of us sign up for regular therapy and counselling it’s often because we are seeking change and growth in ourselves. Some might want to let go off their anger issues, some may be trying to handle their loneliness better while others may be dealing with loss of close ones. Whatever be the specific issue, chances are if you have signed up for therapy you’re looking at evolving and personal development.
One of my clients, Hrishita (aged 32) asked me a very interesting question a while back. She said that while she was feeling better in general, how was she to actually track her growth vis a vis therapy?
In some cases, like when you’re looking at quitting smoking or another form of addiction, it’s easy to track progress. You can look at where you started from and then compare that to where you are right now. But when the issue in question is more emotional and lacks any clinical diagnosis – it might be harder to chart progress therein.
These are some questions you can ask yourself to gauge approximately how far you’ve come:
Are My Specific Symptoms or Behaviour Improving?
Let’s say when you started therapy you couldn’t speak in front of a crowd. Maybe you’d start forgetting what you were saying or maybe your palms got all sweaty. What is the status of that now?
This is the most straightforward way to track any development. So, if you’re still scared while speaking to a large group-that’s okay.
We’re not looking at whether or not the symptom has totally alleviated, just whether there has been a significant positive change or not.
If presently you can talk to a medium sized group- without getting a panic attack or while being able to control your rising panic- that’s great progress!
How Am I Feeling Throughout the Week at an Average?
Sometimes when you newly start therapy you experience a positive spiral which unfortunately can be temporary. Therapy is gruelling work and a lot many times discomfort comes before positive changes – but to actually track growth you need to see how your moods are at an average through the week not only after a session when you might feel good and accomplished. Emotional stability and balance also needs to be looked at.
Am I reacting to this the same way I always have? Am I happier than I was before? Is this external event effecting me lesser than it would before I started therapy?
The trick is to try to objectively gauge your feelings.
When Seema, 28 started therapy with me she was lonely and had very little self-worth. For this reason she was often getting involved with men who would give her little attention at first but then ultimately treat her badly and dismiss her from their lives abruptly.
Within a few sessions, I could see her growing but it was when she started demanding more out of relationships that she saw it for herself. Her verdict was that this was something (a relationship) she would have agreed to earlier but now is looking for more because she values herself more. It might be an easy decision for one of us to reach but for someone who was battling low self –esteem and depression it certainly wasn’t.
Am I Learning More About Myself?
For me one of the most beautiful outcomes of therapy is when we get to know more about ourselves. We all know that we tend to stereotype people, but what we don’t always realize is that we even put ourselves into boxes. We label ourselves and as a result we limit ourselves and our experiences.
In therapy, we often learn more about who we truly are, without our or others’ bias colouring our judgement and it can be refreshing and extremely freeing.
Because with that also comes acceptance of who we are and our emotions and thoughts. And for any meaningful change to take place, acceptance is necessary because without that we become desperate and trap ourselves in a vicious cycle of guilt and no results.
So question yourself about what you have learned about you and how accepting you are about that.
Remember no growth in linear. Having one panic attack or one emotional tantrum after a while doesn’t mean you have fallen into your old habits again. Sometimes, it can just mean you are human and not perfect.
(Prachi Jain is a psychologist, trainer, optimist, reader and lover of Red Velvets)
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