The Spiral of Growth: Recognizing Progress in Your Therapy Journey
By Lisa Savage | Aug 2, 2023
By Hope Venetta, LCMHCA, NCC
Photo credit (yellow shirt) from Canva
When do you know that therapy is working? How do we know if it has been worth it? As a psychotherapist, I understand the journey of self-awareness and personal development can be challenging, and let’s face it, expensive. We are set up by a society that values instant gratification and yearns for an immediate transformation, hoping that therapy will miraculously erase all our struggles. However, the reality is that personal growth is a gradual process that requires patience and self-reflection. In this blog post, I want to address a common concern many of us face—how to recognize progress and know when therapy is truly working. Let’s explore the concept of reframing and the importance of self-awareness in acknowledging our growth, using an enlightening experience I recently had.
The Power of Perspective:
I was going through some old journal entries and found several entries about a topic I struggled with. I thought to myself, “Am I still dealing with this?” “Still??” But as I began to slip into despair that my prayers and attempts at personal development over the years had produced nothing, I saw a meme on a friend’s Facebook page that made me think. I checked myself and got some perspective.
The Meme That Resonated:
A friend shared a meme featuring two images. The first depicted a circle that seemed to be drawn repeatedly, representing the same issue recurring. But the second image, from a different vantage point, showed the same shape transformed into a corkscrew or spring spiraling upwards. This simple yet profound visual analogy struck a chord within me, shifting my perception of my own journey.
Reframing Our Experiences:
At that moment, I realized that although I was still dealing with the same issue, my response to it had evolved. I was growing and addressing it on higher and higher levels. This revelation was a game-changer. Initially, I was so discouraged that the issue hadn’t vanished entirely. When I stopped to think about it, I failed to recognize the significant growth and development that had taken place within me.
Understanding the Process:
Therapy is not a linear path; it’s a transformative process filled with ups and downs, setbacks, and breakthroughs. It’s important to acknowledge that progress doesn’t always manifest as an immediate resolution or complete eradication of our struggles. Instead, it often emerges as subtle shifts in our perspectives, emotional resilience, and coping mechanisms. These changes signify our growth, even if the core issue remains present.
The Journey of Self-Awareness:
One key element in recognizing progress is cultivating self-awareness. Self-awareness allows us to observe our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors without judgment. By developing this ability, we can identify the subtle changes and improvements in our responses to life’s challenges. Through talk therapy, we gain the tools to understand our patterns, motivations, and triggers, empowering us to make conscious choices that align with our values.
Celebrating Milestones, Big and Small:
When it comes to recognizing progress, it’s essential to celebrate both significant milestones and the smaller victories along the way. A breakthrough moment may warrant a joyous celebration, say like recognizing you have been dating a person who constantly gaslights you and kicking them to the curb. (Do the young people still say that? LOL, but you know what I mean) But let’s not overlook the daily acts of self-care, the newfound emotional resilience, or the moments of self-compassion that demonstrate our growth. Every step forward counts, no matter how small.
Tracking Your Progress:
To tangibly observe your growth, consider maintaining a journal or reflection log. Document your thoughts, feelings, and insights throughout your therapy journey. Periodically review your entries to gain a fresh perspective on how far you’ve come. You, like me, may be surprised to see the positive changes you’ve made and the progress you’ve achieved, even in the face of ongoing challenges.
Read more about progress in therapy here:
Therapy is a transformative process that requires time, patience, and self-awareness. Reframing our experiences and recognizing progress is essential to appreciate the growth and development we undergo. Remember, your journey may involve revisiting familiar issues, but your response and perspective evolve, signaling personal growth. By embracing the spiral of growth and acknowledging your progress, you can find encouragement and motivation to continue on your path toward healing and self-discovery.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, “I never lose. I either win or learn.” Your therapy journey is an opportunity for continuous learning, resilience, and empowerment. Embrace the spiral, trust the process, and celebrate the transformative changes within you.
About The Author
Hope Venetta is a Nationally Certified Counselor with 14 years of experience in mental health continuing education. Hope serves as an LCMHCA at a private group practice in Durham, NC, where she provides therapy to couples and individuals dealing with a diverse range of presenting issues.