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  • Mary Katherine L

Progress Isn't Linear

As you make progress in therapy, you will face challenges and obstacles. For some clients, those challenges can feel like sliding backwards. Some clients even worry that it means all of their progress wasn't real.


The reality is that therapy comes with ups and downs. Progress isn't linear, but it does have an upward trajectory.


It's important to remember that the goal of therapy isn't about reaching a place where you're happy all the time. Instead, therapy is most often about reaching a place where you're functioning at "normal" again.


Functioning at "normal" means functioning at your normal. Functioning at "normal" does not mean functioning at some standard set by society (I hate the word normal when it's used that way!).


For example: Imagine someone who came to therapy because they were depressed. One of the signs that they were depressed? They were crying every day. Lately, they've been feeling significantly better. Until...

Client: I cried this morning. I couldn't believe it. I thought I had been doing so much better.

After exploring that a bit, the therapist asks a few questions:

Therapist: It sounds like it was definitely a tough morning. But, you know, I think a lot of people would have cried in that situation.

Client: Probably. But, I just thought I had been making so much progress. Crying again felt like going back to square one.

Therapist: What I'm hearing is that, even though you realize you had a good reason for crying, it just reminded you so much of when that depression had ahold of you? It reminded you so much of that time that it felt like you had never gotten away from the depression in the first place?

Client: Exactly.

Therapist: I wonder: Before the depression came around, did you cry sometimes?

Client: Well, sure.

Therapist: So, why isn't it okay that you cried this morning?

Client: I hadn't really thought about it that way.

Therapist: And now that you think about it that way?

Client: I guess I can see it a bit differently. It is a bit intimidating to think I have to go the rest of my life without crying again.

Then, rather than discussing what the client did "wrong" such that they ended up crying, the therapist and client may discuss how crying became so scary to them. If it were me and a client, we might even look up how often the average person cries (it's 30-64 times per year for women and 5-17 times per year for men, by the way, according to https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/07-08/numbers).


All of that to say, you are running a marathon, not a sprint. You can trip every now and then, you can breathe a bit heavier now and then. You can even take a break to sit on the sidewalk every now and then! Be gentle with yourself as you heal and grow.

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