Change is gradual and breaking old patterns and replacing them with positive ones is not easy. The famous Chinese saying—that the longest journey starts with the first step, is true for counseling and milestones are attained with small baby steps.
So bear in mind that although you may not see the progress you hoped for right away, you should expect to see some progress after several sessions.
Any counseling relationship rests on progress being made by you, the patient, and you need to assess whether results are happening after the first several sessions.
The counseling relationship is about chemistry not just clinical expertise, and the human connection is central to success. If you sense stagnation or there are other frictions constantly happening between you and your counselor, it may be time to look for another professional.
Do You and Others See Improvement?
Counseling should have an impact on your life and the ultimate measurement tool of whether it is working is whether you are better as a person. There should be “before” and “after” differences in your thinking and behavior that are apparent to you and those in your personal orbit.
You can evaluate your progress using the following questions:
• Is your life changing for the better? Look at different parts of your life including work, home, and social life.
• Are you meeting the goals you and your therapist have set?
• Is therapy challenging you? Is it stretching you beyond your comfort zone?
• Do you feel like you’re starting to understand yourself better?
• Do you feel more confident and empowered?
• Are your relationships improving?
Remember that growth is difficult, and you won’t be a new person overnight. But you should notice positive changes in your life. Your overall mood might be improving, for example. You may feel more connected to family and friends. Or a crisis that might have overwhelmed you in the past doesn’t throw you off as much any more.
Celeste R. Winberry, LCSW, serves as a consultant on mental health issues for a range of health service organizations. She lives in Clifton, N.J., has over 25 years of experience in the field, and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.