7 Signs Therapy Is Working & You've Become A Better Person

A therapist shares the subtle changes she looks for in clients that signify progress.

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You won't be surprised that individuals don’t seek out a psychologist because their life is going well. They contact one because they’re in pain.

Perhaps they are dating a narcissist, have recently become a new parent, are reeling from being unfaithful, are worried they’re addicted, want to resolve childhood trauma, or are facing a divorce. The list of the stresses that bring people into psychotherapy is long.


How to know if therapy is working

One question I'm often asked as a psychologist is, "How will I know I’m making progress?"

The answers may surprise you, because they are subtle and may even sneak up on you.

RELATED: 5 Hard-To-Admit Things I've Learned From 15+ Years Of Therapy


Here are seven subtle changes that show you're growing as a person

1. “No” pops out of your mouth as a complete sentence

Rachel, a mother of two toddlers, was trying to give her children the warm and loving childhood she didn’t receive. She was shocked when she said, "NO," and the floor did not open under her.

She began to learn she could set limits without causing harm to her children, not a big surprise for most parents, but it was for this new mother. So, she began to use this word with the adults in her life, much to her delight.

2. Chocolate is losing its magic pull on you.

Along with no longer craving spaghetti, french fries, warm bread slathered with melting butter, or that half bottle of wine. Why? Because as you become mentally healthier, you’re less likely to stress eat and drink.

Melissa, a 30-year-old who came to me about dealing with the alcoholism of both of her parents, told me she was losing weight.


“Is this normal?” she asked anxiously.

When we explored what she had changed, she realized that developing compassion for herself allowed her to stop soothing herself with carbs.

RELATED: How To Stop Someone Else's Triggers From Becoming Your Trauma

3. Some of your friends get boring quickly

Their dramas may begin to feel tedious and predictable, making you want to shout, “I need to do something different!”

Gabrielle felt stuck. Getting drinks with friends after work always turned into a gripe session. Texting resulted in her friends insulting one another. Exasperated, she said, “I need friends who like doing something.”

4. You realize you’re not so into the guy you’re dating.

This is a big one. Your feelings toward your current romantic interest may shift as this relationship feels less interesting or perhaps too exhausting.


Maddie began to see she didn’t love all the drama her current boyfriend caused. Her heart was in her throat while wondering if he’d call or cancel seeing her, always at the last minute.

When they spoke, it was always about him. She began thinking someone interested in her, her likes, and even her needs would be a better choice.

5. You become more itchy at work

Things you didn’t like may become more apparent and cause you to want to say something or do something that may initially feel out of character.

Don’s original reason for contacting me involved trying to heal his marriage after he had an affair. He was surprised that learning to focus on his needs extended to his relationship with his wife, whom he loved, but also resulted in a growing dissatisfaction with what was happening at his job. He began to think about a position that better fits his lifestyle.


RELATED: How To Know If Your Therapist Is Helping

6. You make space in your life for a pet

You begin to have thoughts like you’re finally adopting that dog whose face keeps popping up in your local shelter’s advertisement.

Karen was depressed. She lived alone and worked long hours. I suggested a pet. The thought of a cuddly being who wanted to be with her cheered her up.

Her best friend told her she’d be “tied down” if she got a dog. She decided to do what she thought was best for her and told her friend, “I’ll hire a dog-walker.”

7. Your body may feel different, freely and more agile

Tara had been highly anxious since childhood. One result was she was very self-critical. She’d scan her face for pimples, the beginning of wrinkles, checking for stray gray hair. By the time she came to see me, she had stopped looking in the mirror.


Tara worked to learn strategies to manage her anxiety. She shared in one recent session that she was now looking in the mirror and liked what she saw. She was also moving more freely and liked herself.

What’s happening is you are getting emotionally healthy, and when you become emotionally healthier everything begins to shift.

Growth is not linear and is often unpredictable. Think of a can of soda that sprays when you open it. It’s been shaken up and indicates this by the intensity of its spray in all directions. You’re no different.


So enjoy getting to know the shocking truths of what healthier looks like for you!

RELATED: How To Stop Cognitive Dissonance From Holding You Back From Your Full Potential

Patricia O’Gorman, Ph.D., psychologist and life coach, is a best-selling author of nine books on trauma, resilience, women, and self-parenting. Find her work on Substack.