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5 Reasons Why Therapy Isn’t Working from a Therapist | When it feels like therapy isn't helping

1) Goals are not specific nor realistic enough

  • Therapy without specific goals is like putting a desk together without the instructions - you can probably get it together but a few months later you notice that the drawers don’t work as well or it’s lopsided. It can still work but doesn’t work as well as it was intended.

  • Knowing exactly what you’re working on/towards + knowing an estimated end date = higher commitment and highest probability of getting what you need from therapy

2) Expectations are not clearly communicated nor committed to in the beginning

  • From the outset, it is imperative that the therapist clearly communicate what is expected of you both during and in between sessions to make the most of your therapeutic experience

  • Client must commit from the beginning or treatment will be disorganized and thus, less effective

3) You’re doing the work at the request of someone else

  • It is not uncommon for clients to attend therapy at the request of a family member and/or loved one lending confusion to the client’s true buy in to the therapeutic process

  • Client gets best outcome when he/she demonstrates personal buy in (i.e. covers all or a portion of the cost for his/her own therapy, providing a written summary of results of session with the party who is paying for therapy)

4) Therapy isn’t prioritized

  • Life is busy and full of various other commitments. Therapy is one of the highest forms of self-care - if you’re not able to make this commitment to work on bettering yourself what other self-commitments are you not keeping? How is this also causing more distress in your life?

  • If you don’t fully address the problem it is just a matter of time before it comes back

5) You quit when you feel better not when you’ve reached your goals

  • It’s a common misconception that therapy is over when you feel better. While this can be true sometimes, therapy is actually over when you have achieved your goals (see # 1 for the importance of setting specific and realistic goals).

  • Discontinuing treatment prematurely is like putting a band-aid on a large wound; it can stop the bleeding and contain the wound for a while but it is still at risk of getting infected, getting worse over time, or simply coming back later on. Oftentimes what clients present to therapy for are problems that can only be seen on the surface. However, through the process of effective therapy, the true source of the problem can then be identified and properly treated. This results in significantly less pain and suffering in the future and reduces the chances of it causing major distress later on.

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Blue Sage Counseling and Wellness, and the information provided by Ashley Francis, is solely intended for informational and entertainment purposes and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis, or treatment regarding medical or mental health conditions. Although Ashley Francis is a licensed marriage and family therapist, the views expressed on this site or any related content should not be taken for medical or psychiatric advice. Always consult your physician before making any decisions related to your physical or mental health.

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