Dr. Alison Ross appears in U.S. News and World Report on the important subject of how to measure progress in therapy.
In fact, success often hinges on a strong, collaborative relationship between psychotherapist and patient, which the APA calls a “therapeutic alliance.” One important study has shown that when patients and their therapists engage in constructive feedbackwith one another, treatment lasts longer and results in improved outcomes. “I think the stereotype of the aloof, silent, ‘blank screen’ psychoanalyst continues to inform most people’s images of what an analyst or a psychodynamic therapist is like. While there are some who still practice in this traditional fashion, most psychodynamic clinicians would consider this approach old-school and outdated,” says Alison Ross, a psychologist and adjunct associate professor at City College of New York. “Most analysts – myself included – are actively and warmly engaged with their patients and do not adhere to the notion that the analyst is some know-it-all who bestows his or her ‘knowledge’ on the patient.”
But things should feel better eventually. Exactly when that is depends on many factors, Ross says, including the severity of the problem, the person’s commitment to and investment in the treatment process, and whether biological issues are also at play. “But with all that said, I think after a couple of months of once-weekly therapy, something positive should be happening to suggest that the fit between patient and therapist is a good one and that things are on track,” she says. Within that time frame, she expects a deepening and more trusting relationship between patient and therapist to develop. And with that should come some relief in the intensity of the person’s distress, or at least some increased clarity about the different factors in the person’s life that are causing distress and some ideas about how to manage them. “I’m not suggesting a cure by any means,” she says, “but some evidence of progress being made.”