When is therapy not working?

When therapy stops working, it can indicate small problems that need to be fixed or larger problems that require more fundamental changes. Either way, it's important that you don't keep it to yourself. The more honest you are, the more help you can get, so be brave and have that difficult conversation. There are many reasons why therapy may not be working for you.

Your therapist, the type of therapy they provide, and how they relate to you may be the reasons. You may also be unprepared to participate in the process that therapy requires. Sometimes people in therapy fear that, because they are not the “authority”, they don't have the last word on their own experience. You sound almost convinced that it's time to move on or directly ask your therapist to change his approach; I encourage you to follow your intuition.

Whether or not it's worth a last conversation with your therapist is obviously your decision. Such a conversation could be healing or simply add fuel to the frustration. If you think it would benefit you in any way to clear things up, it's worth a try. However, if you think that's a foregone conclusion, you may want to move on.

And if your therapist doesn't give you homework, it's time to start asking for them or start working with a therapist who's a little more proactive. Many therapists say that clients cling to their symptoms because of secondary benefits, such as support from others or disability income. And if, as you spend your time in therapy, you're not sure what your therapist is talking about when he says things like, “This was great progress today,” it doesn't hurt to ask them directly what they mean by that. One of the biggest benefits of therapy is that your therapist can give you the confidence and strength you need to follow lifestyle treatments.

Changing therapists or methods of therapy can be emotionally difficult, and ideally, your previous therapist should help you through the process. However, I slowly began to get the feeling that I was serving more as a trusted confidant than as a therapist. Sometimes, therapists use objective measurements during the session to help control symptoms and clearly demonstrate improvement. In the workshops, I demonstrate this by asking therapists to think of a person they don't like, now or at any point in their life, and to raise their hands if anyone comes up with them.

Similar to boundary violations, your therapist could be exhibiting unethical behavior that causes harm. Your therapist should be someone who “understands you, makes you feel deeply understood, but who also challenges you effectively. A therapist who accepts your values, understands your emotions, and who makes you feel accepted and listened to is key to therapy. We even addressed her fear of being judged by the therapists in the audience, suggesting that those thoughts showed her strong desire for good relationships and respect from her colleagues.

So we invited the therapists to take the stage so Christine could ask them how they felt an extremely frightening step for her, because she was sure they were looking down on her.

Keira Ouellet
Keira Ouellet

Devoted web nerd. Total beer fanatic. Certified zombie expert. Wannabe web trailblazer. Extreme internet geek. Certified internet ninja.

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