Part of being human is seeking to improve our functioning. Most of us want to get as close to our potential as possible, whether it be as a friend, spouse, parent, learner, or worker. But, what is real change when it comes to behavior, emotions, and thoughts? Permanency would be its most defining characteristic. Doing something better once or for a limited time wouldn't qualify as actual change; it would have to last for a good length of time to qualify. For instance, if one wanted to change workout habits and make exercise a part of his or her daily routine, doing so for a couple weeks and then stopping wouldn't be true change. The new routine would have to be some substantial length of time to qualify as change. The longer that time is, the more we can say that actual change has taken place.
Becoming less depressed and anxious is especially challenging. We could feel better and be more effective, but, being human, we are still going to have moments or time periods of doubt, sadness, fear, etc. We need to be okay with a degree of imperfection much like we wouldn't expect to keep up with a workout routine 100% of the time. If we can have less depression and intense anxiety or have them be less overwhelming, we can say that we have made changes for the better.
Good therapy is one tool we can use to make positive changes as it appears to change the wiring of our brains (Walton, Forbes, 2017) and, as a result, our feelings and behavior. For example, if a young child suffered years of physical abuse, they likely would be wired for anxiety and distrust of others. Something about good counseling helps that person get past that hurt and actually affect the part of the brain that is overactive. In this example, the therapist might help that client stop reliving that trauma so as not to continue to excite that part of the brain. The brain then would make better decisions and more helpful actions instead. Therapy in this view then is not some magical cure but rather a real biochemical change taking place.
But therapy is not the only tool. Medication, meditation, and exercise are some of the other tools some people swear by. If therapy helps an individual improve functioning, great, but it's by no means the only way to effect change.