Does Therapy Work?
Updated: Dec 28, 2021
Sometimes it's difficult, over time, to see the small and even big changes that happen in the therapy room. From time to time, it's helpful to have evaluation tools so that the client, and the counsellor, can track changes that might otherwise be difficult to quantify.
In the latter half of 2021, I asked seven of my clients to complete evaluation forms at the start of therapy and then again at 6, 12 and 18 weeks. PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, Quality of life, and physical complaints that could not be explained medically were all measured, although some forms were not completed if they were not relevant to the client's presenting issues. Below are the anonymised results of those evaluations.
Dr Peter Levine says that "trauma is a fact of life, but it does not have to be a life sentence." All the clients presented here have had at least one traumatic experience that has affected them into adulthood and all but one scored significantly above the threshold for a PTSD diagnosis. All seven have shown a significant drop in PTSD symptoms, and in some cases below the diagnostic threshold. You'll also notice a corresponding drop in anxiety, physical symptoms and depression, and, as you can imagine, a subsequent increase in the quality of life. All clients had regular weekly sessions which involved somatic psychotherapy. A mix of talking therapies and awareness of and resolution to how the body responds to the stories we tell. You can read more about the power of somatic work on this blog post here. Suffice it to say, it is essential to work with the body when you are working with trauma. Healing the mind is less than half of the job, for it's the body that the mind responds to.
As you will notice all lines show a downward trend which is representative of a positive outcome, with the exception of Quality of Life. This is because we would expect, as the others decrease, that a client's quality of life should improve. The measurements were added together and an average of all seven is presented below. (A key is to the right in the image)
Although these show dramatic positive changes across the board, it is not until you look at the individual outcomes that those changes take on a more personal meaning to those who suffer from PTSD, anxiety and depression and corresponding physical symptomology.
It is not concerning to see symptoms increase with therapy. Things that have been hidden for years start to come out and when working with the body, this increased awareness of how one feels tends to increase the scores before they settle. This was the case with the client above. The good news is that when it settles, it does so below their starting measurement.
These charts may seem a bit dry, but each one represents a life that has been changed and illustrates the possibilities that are available to everyone who wishes to engage in therapy. The myth of trauma being something you have to carry for the rest of your life is being shattered more and more as we start to unlock the secrets of how these things play out in our day-to-day lives and how we can help the mind and body to heal from them!