How a therapist can tell the progress of the patient

An essential aspect of the therapist’s work is tracking patient progress. In my practice, I look for signs at every session, even if I do not mention them to the patient.

The healing process in psychotherapy is often a subtle one. The therapist can easily overlook these changes, meeting the patient every week. Therefore, I give special attention to looking out for the signs.

Importance of looking out for the patient’s progress and change during therapy sessions

It is helpful for the therapist to be alert to change. Patients are typically oblivious to the subtle changes in their own personalities. Left on their own, individuals may start doubting their new sense of being (due to persistent introjects / resistances).

Noticing the client’s change and progress is helpful to them. The therapist bringing attention to the development of the patient helps the patient to integrate fully with this new attitude or behaviour through:

  • acknowledgement of the perceived change,
  •  Appreciation of how the change is impacting the life of the client,
  •  Understanding of how the change is developing and meaning-making,
  •  Assimilation of the experience, i.e. how it feels to exist with this change.

Some signs of change were observable in the patient during therapy.

There are many signs of change. Here is a brief description.

  • Change in how the patient makes eye contact makes facial expressions.
  •  Change in posture, dressing, hairstyle — not the usual styling change, but when the client comes in, their aura feels different.
  •  Change in topics brought up in session — most individuals bring up a focus topic (like work or kids…). I’d notice a difference when the subject is no longer interesting to talk about or when another becomes figural. Generally, when the topic becomes more about the experiences of the self, it is progress.
  •  Change in the client’s emotional vocabulary.
  •  Client’s own account of perceiving new feelings or losing anxiety. Especially after the holidays, the client reports that certain old feelings of anxiety around the festive season are no longer felt.
  •  The client making new decisions. This applies to clients who have difficulty doing so.
  •  The client who intends to reduce medication (especially meds that have been prescribed for a long time) reports having alleviated physical symptoms.
  •  The client who reports that children/spouse, etc, are “doing better” (usually relationship-wise).

Note that these changes may not mean that the goal of therapy is reached. Change indicates that the therapy is in progress, and the patient can look forward to more enrichment from the sessions.