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Why Therapy Doesn’t Work For Everyone (5 Major Roadblocks)

Undoubtedly, society has come a long way in normalizing mental health. What was once a taboo topic has now become a dinner table conversation. 

However, with any good thing, there comes a flip side. While seeking professional help is far more accepted than ever before, therapy has been put on a pedestal as the end all be all for mental health struggles. 

But what if I were to tell you that therapy doesn’t always work for everyone? 

This isn’t meant to discourage you from seeking help, but entering into therapy with the mindset that your therapist can suddenly fix all your problems may leave you more discouraged than when you started. 

The good news, however, is that many of the reasons we’ll discuss are often fixable with some adjustments. 

So, let’s dive into why therapy may not work for everyone and a few reasons this may be the case. 

What Does It Mean If Therapy Doesn’t Work?

What exactly do we mean when we say “therapy isn’t working”?  

While it’s such a relief to finally have an unbiased third party to talk to about our problems, is that really the end goal of therapy?

If therapy isn’t working the first time, does this mean we’re meant to travel the road of depression or anxiety alone for the rest of our lives?

It’s incredibly common for people who have never tried therapy before to be skeptical in the first place. If you are questioning whether or not your therapy is working, rest assured these worries are completely normal. 

When we say therapy isn’t working, we simply mean the tools and guidance you’re receiving from your therapist aren’t helping you cope or manage the stressors you came to find help for.

Instead of making progress (even baby steps), you’re finding yourself stuck in the same patterns, or even worse, regressing back into old ones without any practical help from your therapist.

Successful therapy means you can notice relief in your symptoms, your coping skills have blossomed, and your usual problematic behaviors are decreasing. If this isn’t the case, your therapy may not be working.

It’s important to note that therapy isn’t a quick fix like medication.

Taking a pill for a symptom targets that symptom and provides relief in a short window of time. For therapy, the main goal is to often get to the root cause of your surface-level thinking and behaviors, which nevertheless take time. 

No, you’re not doomed forever if your therapy isn’t working.

There are quite a few reasons why this may be the case. Identifying them can be incredibly helpful, so you can understand what needs to be fixed. 

A woman sits in a red chair facing her therapist who sits on a couch with a notebook in her lap. There are two graphics of bandaids on either corner of the image. The title reads Why therapy doesn't work for everyone
why therapy doesn’t work for everyone

The Top 5 Reasons Therapy May Not Be Working For You:

What are a few reasons therapy may fail someone? Let’s talk about it. 

1. You’re Resistant To Therapy:

Yep – I said it. The first and most common reason therapy may not work for someone is that they don’t want to change.

It’s easy to stay stuck in old behaviors and habits, even if we know they hurt us.

For therapy to work and work effectively, an individual has to want to work on themselves.

This can’t be a half effort either – to heal and overcome whatever is holding you back, you have to want it, work for it, and play an active role in your own journey. This means going into therapy wholeheartedly with the intent of bettering yourself. 

2. Your Therapist Doesn’t Specialize In Your Needs:

It wouldn’t make sense for someone with a severe phobia of spiders to meet with a therapist trained in marriage counseling, would it? 

If psychotherapy is the tree, there are many branches stemming from it.

There are child therapists, trauma therapists, family therapists, addiction and substance abuse therapists, and much more. 

It’s incredibly important to do your research when finding a therapist that is right for you.

Take your time and find out exactly what they specialize in and if they have past experience dealing with your particular situation. This may be the greatest factor in determining your success. 

3. Your Relationship With Your Therapist Isn’t a Good Match:

When entering into therapy, you will likely be the most vulnerable, open, and honest version of yourself you’ve ever been.

You may talk about childhood trauma or past abuse – things you’ve never told your closest friends. 

Due to the extremely sensitive nature of therapy, it’s vital to have a strong connection and relationship with your therapist. 

Therapy isn’t likely to work without trust – it’s just that simple. 

Remember that you may not feel that ‘spark’ right away. It may take time to open up and feel secure with your therapist. 

If you feel you and your therapist are incompatible, it’s completely within your rights to request a new one.

No, it’s not selfish or “mean.”

Anyone that has ever worked in the mental health field knows just how critical the relationship between a client and therapist is and will be more than willing to allow you to try again with someone new. 

More>> What To Talk About In Therapy (When You’re Feeling Stuck)

A graphic image of two heads facing each other. One has organized lines inside the mind connecting to disorganized lines inside the other. The title reads Your relationship with your therapist is not a good fit.
Why therapy doesn’t work: Your relationship is not a good fit.

4. You’re Not Being Honest:

This might sting a bit, but if you’re not being honest with your therapist, you’re wasting both time and money. 

How can your therapist help you cope with the grief and heartbreak of your long-term relationship if you’re still texting and meeting up with your ex on the side?

Many people feel shame or anxiety about discussing their problematic behaviors, so instead, they try to lie their way through therapy.

While your therapist may never find out the truth, your mental and emotional healing journey will be greatly hindered. 

Only sharing a small part of the story isn’t being honest, either.

While you may ease your guilty conscience, it’s only setting you up for a larger web of lies and difficult problems in the future.

For a client-therapist relationship to truly work honestly must be the first policy. 

More>> Why Does My Husband Misinterpret Everything I Say?

5. You Need a Different Therapeutic Approach:

‘Therapy’ is a blanket statement. Many different forms of therapy are used to help clients suffering from mental health disorders.

Each therapist may utilize a different form of therapy, so if you feel that what he or she is doing isn’t working, it might be because they need to try a different approach. 

Here are a few main types of psychotherapy used:

  • Psychoanalysis: This therapeutic approach aims to treat anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders by connecting the unconscious and conscious minds. Repressed fears, memories, conflict, or trauma are brought forward to address the root cause of many problems. 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: In this therapy, the idea is simple: our thoughts affect our emotions, which then influence our behavior. Individuals are asked to talk freely about their current life and any difficulties they may be experiencing. From there, a therapist will help you identify any problematic thinking behaviors contributing to your problem. 
  • Integrative Therapy: While many therapists specialize in one specific method, a large community of mental health professionals use more than one approach. An effective therapist can tailor their approach to best meet your needs. 

How Do You Know If a Therapist Isn’t Working Out?

The healing process – whether you’re overcoming trauma, working through mental illness, or need help with coping strategies – is uncomfortable to say the least. 

So, how can you tell the difference between a therapist that isn’t working well for you and emotional growing pains? 

Here are a few subtle signs to look out for that you may need to switch therapists:

  • You don’t feel comfortable when meeting with them
  • They are rigid in their therapeutic approach and won’t tailor it to your situation 
  • They don’t have firm boundaries 
  • Your meetings don’t feel like a safe space to express your emotions 
  • You don’t feel as though they actually hear you
  • You leave therapy feeling judged 
  • They push their own agenda on you rather than respecting your goals for therapy
  • They simply aren’t helpful or comforting 
  • They don’t give you tangible advice to take home with you 

Remember that progress with a therapist may not always be obvious or tangible. It may take time to see results; however, if you experience any of the signs listed above, you should seek a new therapist

Access should not be a barrier to help.

Soberish is proudly sponsored by BetterHelp. If you have tried (and failed) to find a therapist with the knowledge and background to help you navigate your specific issues, try BetterHelp. Learn more about my counseling journey with BetterHelp or visit their website below.

FAQs on Why Therapy Doesn’t Work For Everyone:

While therapy is an excellent option for many people, there are a few reasons therapy may fail.

The most common reasons therapy may not work for you are that: you’re resistant to truly changing, your therapist doesn’t specialize in the area you need, you’re incompatible, you’re not being fully honest with them, or you need them to try a different approach. 

Therapy may make you feel worse if you aren’t ready to address some extremely painful or uncomfortable feelings, memories, and trauma from the past. However, the biggest reason therapy may make you worse is a destructive or unhealthy therapist. Bad therapy can re-traumatize you or even backfire. 

Research has shown about 75% of people who go through psychotherapy experience symptom relief and can better manage their mental health and daily life. 

In some cases, therapists may terminate treatment with a client. This happens for many reasons, such as they feel as though the client isn’t benefiting from therapy, the client can no longer afford treatment, the therapist isn’t specialized in their client’s area of needs, or personal reasons such as family emergencies or other life circumstances. 

A woman sits on a red chair facing her therapist who sits on a couch capturing notes. The title reads Why therapy doesn't work for everyone. The URL at the bottom reads soberish.co
Why therapy doesn’t work for everyone PIN

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