How Can I Know if My Therapist Is Helping?

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How Can I Know if My Therapist Is Helping?

Unlike most areas of healthcare where improvement can be objectively measured — like a blood pressure reading or cholesterol numbers — determining the value of therapy is completely subjective.

The most profound indicator of progress is how you feel about the process and its impact on your life. In the therapeutic journey, you are the ultimate judge of your therapist’s effectiveness. It’s important to experience positive growth in the process. 

However, therapy has ups and downs, and growth doesn’t always feel good.  It's important to embrace the challenging aspects of therapy as well as the positive. If you find yourself in conflict with your therapist, consider whether it's because you're hesitant to confront difficult issues they are opening up with you. Again, ultimately you will have to decide.  

Here are 3 things to consider when evaluating your current partnership with your therapist or when you’re looking to start therapy: 


To better understand the effectiveness of your therapy, let’s reflect on your interactions with your therapist and ask yourself these questions.  Your answers will help with your decision:  

  • Is your therapist hearing what you are saying, not just hearing the words but understanding you and where you’re coming from?  Or, do you feel that your therapist is often distracted, brings the focus back to themselves or is overly interpretive and hears everything you say from their particular lens or framework?   
  • How are you feeling about the responses you get?  Is your therapist's feedback valuable to you?
  • Are you able to express yourself openly and honestly without fear of judgment?  
  • Do you feel you can talk about anything, including things you may never have shared with anyone?
  • Everyone is unique. Is your therapist able to accept values and worldviews from different backgrounds, cultures and perspectives?  Does your therapist work to see your point of view? 

Trust and Connection

The foundation of any therapeutic relationship is trust.  It's crucial to understand that trust doesn't automatically exist in any relationship, including the one with your therapist. Even if, due to your life experiences, you find it challenging to trust people, a strong therapeutic relationship involves actively building that trust together.

If you find yourself hesitating to open up, or if you feel that your therapist is not fully understanding your perspective, it's vital that your therapist welcomes you bringing these feelings into your sessions. Acknowledging and discussing these concerns is a key part of co-creating and building trust, allowing the therapeutic relationship to strengthen.

Responsiveness and Support

Therapy should be a collaborative and transparent relationship that includes regular discussions about the therapeutic relationship and the process. Does your therapist seek feedback and check in on your experience? Is your therapist responsive to your feedback and do you feel that you’re playing an active role in shaping the relationship?

You know that you’re working with the right therapist if they’re helping you develop tools for dealing with the challenges in your life, encouraging you to embrace your emotions, supporting you to get better at being open and honest, and the important relationships in your life are benefitting from the therapeutic work you’re doing.  Finally, you know that you’re benefiting from your therapy when  you feel a greater sense of empowerment and agency and take increasing responsibility for the choices you are making.

Ann Green, NP, a mental health therapist and psychiatric nurse practitioner, has over 35 years of experience providing life-transforming care for those suffering from such challenges as depression, anxiety, and trauma, at Psych Options NYC in Midtown Manhattan (near Penn Station).  To learn how we can help, contact us to schedule a virtual or an in-person consultation.