How did you know therapy was benefiting you?
November 29, 2010 7:33 PM   Subscribe

How did you know therapy was benefiting you?

How did you know therapy was benefiting you?

I'm dealing with social anxiety and occasionally, depression. I have been seeing a new therapist for about two months now. We have a good relationship so far. I feel like I can be open and honest with them. I've even gotten comfortable crying in front of them which was always something I was afraid to do with my old therapist.

But. Lately I find myself truly doubting if I am growing at all or changing in any significant way. My current therapist and I have been working on just feeling my emotions. Usually the really scary emotions that I tend to avoid or dismiss with CBT-based logic.

For example, I'm very sensitive to rejection. A friend doesn't call back and that leaves me feeling really depressed and basically ruins my day. I know “It's not about me.” There are a million reasons that person didn't call me back that have nothing to do with me. But it hurts just the same and there are only so many times I can try to talk myself out of feeling crappy. I realize it's totally irrational but my heart/gut isn't getting that message yet.

I've talked to my therapist about this and they basically said that it's a process and sometimes it just takes a while. I have been trying hard to feel the pain that I have been trying so hard to avoid. But sometimes it feels like I'm just picking at an old wound. Or maybe instead of feeling those emotions, I'm just letting it fester and eat me up even more. And while I feel I am gaining new insights about myself and my anxiety, my behavior and thought processes are pretty much the same.

I really want to change. I want to become a better person. And I think the relationship I have with my current therapist is great. I know I can't rush the process, but I'm worried that doing all of this emotionally draining hard work isn't going to do anything. I'm terrified I'm going to be in therapy five years later, with nothing to show.

Is there anything I can do to quell the doubt and fear for right now?

Stories of your experiences would be especially helpful.
posted by joeyjoejoejr to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Two months is just a beginning. Maybe you are pulling back a little because you have been so open with your new therapist. Take these same concerns you're putting out here back to your therapist. If they're good, and if it's truly a safe relationship, just expressing these doubts may quell some of that doubt and fear.
posted by facetious at 7:37 PM on November 29, 2010

Since you're working on feeling your emotions, how about feeling the doubt and fear? You can feel those things and still proceed with therapy. Acknowledge that those feelings exist and spend some time with them.

Two months is not very long at all. In my experience with therapy, it's actually at about that time that you feel the lowest. The initial burst of hope from starting a new endeavor with a new therapist and finally making progress is wearing off, but it's too early yet to see major changes, and you're probably starting to move toward the nitty gritty stuff where your therapist begins to push a little. It's an uncomfortable time, but that's natural. I agree that it would be fine to talk about your fear that therapy won't get you anywhere with your therapist. IT's something s/he is completely capable of discussing with you, and I bet it's important to get that out there.
posted by Miko at 7:51 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have discussed that doubt with my therapist. She said basically what I wrote above... that it's often a gradual, slow process. And yes, it's possible that maybe I won't change. I guess I feel like it's such an integral part of my identity and personality, that need to grow. I definitely will discuss it with her again.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 8:07 PM on November 29, 2010

Here's the metaphor I came up with recently when thinking about my own process (with a hat tip to Leo McGarry's Guy in the Hole speech):

If I'm depressed, it's like I'm in a hole that I have no way to get out of. I can't even begin to see how it's even possible to climb out. But each of the things I do (therapy, medication, etc.) is like building a step. I can't get to the higher steps without building my way up, and sometimes the building material I'm using runs out and I need to switch to something different. So even though no one thing gets me out of the hole instantly, each piece builds on the other until I have a nice staircase and I can step onto firm ground again.
posted by MsMolly at 8:20 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Personally, I know that therapy is benefiting me when I consistently feel better after a session than before.
posted by radioamy at 8:25 PM on November 29, 2010

"I'm terrified I'm going to be in therapy five years later, with nothing to show."

Depending on who you are, where you are, what you're dealing with, therapy isn't just plugging some variables into a formula and pressing a button. It can be long, hard work.

Over the last two years in therapy, I have gained a much deeper understanding of myself, my motivations and the forces that affect my life then I ever had before. In fact, I think I finally have the whole puzzle in front of me, which is a very strange feeling. This has come after many years of grinding work with a few different therapists, feeling as if nothing were moving forward, and almost giving up on counseling as a whole a number of times. But every step was critical for me, and I learned different things at different times, that are only now being synthesized into the coherent story I now understand.

"Lately I find myself truly doubting if I am growing at all or changing in any significant way."

I used to struggle on the day of my appointments with a strong urge to cancel. I learned that this almost always signaled that there was something ready to come out, something that I was trying to avoid. One thing to consider is whether this doubt you feel is some sort of avoidance mechanism, a way to get you out of an uncomfortable situation, especially when working on "...really scary emotions...".

I'm not trying to scare you about how long it can take. I live in my head a lot, and I know that I make things complicated, which require a lot of teasing apart and reflection. Your mileage may vary.

I'd be happy to share more details with you, if you want. If so, feel free MeMail me.
posted by Gorgik at 8:38 PM on November 29, 2010

Best answer: Personally, I wanted to quit after 2 months because it was Hard feeling all of those emotions and I usually felt worse after therapy, not better. My therapist would call me out for trying to think my way out of those situations and ignore the negative emotions because of course I hated feeling them. UGH.

Five years later we recently finished up therapy (at her impetus, though I Wanted to quit many times in the first 2 years) and I have So. Much. Good. to show for it. Instead of burying the negative emotions so that they fester and and I get more depressed and anxious? I feel them, I acknowledge them, I make changes when they point to something that needs to be changed. I am so much less anxious; my relationships are happier and healthier. I've moved forward with life goals.

Oh Man was it hard two months in when I felt like we were doing nothing by poking all of the wounds. I feel you, but it sounds like you're on a really good path, and doing better than I was at that point, honestly. You will continue to ask that question, and that's ok - but if you stick with it, I think you'll find you've made gains, even when it just feels like pain.
posted by ldthomps at 10:39 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Therapy isn't a simple equation like I used to think: x hours of therapy equals y progress. It's more like a complex polynomial. Because you are part of the equation, sometimes you can't see that even though x hours isn't giving you y progress, you're still progressing.

I have a txt file full of compiled information on the "how do you know if therapy is working" type question. (Memail me if you want it.) I think it's a fairly common worry.

What it all boils down to, basically, is giving the process some more time, especially since you've only been in therapy for 2 months. I've been in therapy for 4 1/2 years* and my biggest progress has been in the last year. I'm even down to appointments every other week.

* not saying this to scare you or to make you think that everyone is in therapy forever,
I was severely fucked up at the beginning of it.

And finally, after you've given the process some more time (say, a year or so accumulated), you may be ready to start judging whether it's "working". You can do this very simply by looking at your reactions to any given situation, comparing what you did now to what you would've done a year ago. Healthier reaction? Therapy is working. Not really any healthier of a reaction? Therapy may not be helping as much as you would like, and that's definitely something to address with your therapist.
posted by saveyoursanity at 5:37 PM on November 30, 2010

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