In many cases, it’s difficult for clients to know whether they’re making progress because therapists do not necessarily state the goals and desired outcomes of therapy sessions. Clients may need to rely on their own global impressions. When clients are treated by cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) clinicians, though, they know how well therapy is working, because CBT therapists monitor progress each week by:
- evaluating clients’ symptoms
- measuring the occurrence of specific target behaviors
- assessing progress toward specific goals
- They realize that the treatment plan their therapist describes makes sense to them. They understand how it is that they’ll overcome their difficulties. And they have confidence that their particular therapist will be competent and helpful.
- They change their unhelpful thinking in session and feel better.
- They enact an “action plan,” at home and notice an improvement in their mood. The action plan, collaboratively designed with their therapist, usually includes (1) reading “therapy notes” of the most important things they learned in session and (2) engaging in specific activities that are linked to the accomplishment of their goals. For example, a depressed client might make plans with friends; an anxious client might expose himself to a feared situation to find out to what degree a negative outcome occurs.
- How is my mood throughout the week (not just at the end of sessions)? Is it at least gradually improving (albeit with ups and downs)?
- Are my specific symptoms or problematic behaviors improving?
- Am I solving problems and working toward my goals?