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What To Do When Therapy Doesn’t Work

What To Do When Therapy Doesn’t Work

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Reasons Therapy Isn’t Working for You

There are numerous causes for why therapy may not be effective for you. Below we will go into each reason in more detail, but reasons may include:1

  • Your therapist isn’t a good match for you
  • You might not be ready to do the work
  • There’s a lack of trust when it comes to your therapist
  • You hold false beliefs about therapy
  • Your therapist crosses boundaries
  • Your therapist is unethical
  • There is inconsistencies from either you or your therapist
  • Your therapist lacks cultural competency

Your Therapist Isn’t a Good Match For You

If you and your therapist don’t form what is known as the “therapeutic alliance,” then you’re probably not a good match, and therapy may remain ineffective.

You could ask, “Does this therapist have expertise in treating the main issues that motivated me to seek counseling?” Asking about their education, experience, and whether they have dealt with clients with similar worries is always acceptable.

Some therapists may attempt to impose their agendas or a therapeutic goal that you don’t share, in addition to possibly going outside their expertise.

For you to be on the same page, assertive communication is helpful in these circumstances.

You Might Not be Ready to do The Work

Both the therapist and the client must put effort into the therapy process. While it is not the therapist’s role to provide you with advice, they frequently teach you skills or offer suggestions that you can use to further your goals.

You can feel like your therapist is leading you astray or find it challenging to open up to complete the work. To determine your role in treatment, try to have an open mind and consider talking with your therapist to define that role.

There’s a Lack of Trust When it Comes to Your Therapist

The purpose of therapists is to offer a neutral, objective perspective. If you don’t have a solid therapeutic relationship, you probably won’t trust them.

You may be sincere and open with your therapist if you have faith in them. It is more difficult to proceed if you haven’t developed that rapport.

You Hold False Beliefs About Therapy

If you don’t know what to anticipate from treatment, you could feel like you aren’t getting the desired results. Also, if you’ve never been to therapy, you might find it a little intimidating because you don’t know how it all works.

However, a good therapist will explain what therapy is and how it works. Think about collaborating to create goals for what you hope to gain from the experience.

Your Therapist Crosses Boundaries

If your therapist consistently oversteps your ethical and professional boundaries, you’ll most likely feel like counseling doesn’t work. The ethical requirement for professional therapists is to “do no harm.”

Some signs that your therapist might be going too far include making sexual advances or making friends with you in public.

The above are only a couple of boundary violations that can be extremely harmful and impair your therapist’s ability to be impartial. Some boundary violations are against the law and may have serious consequences for the therapist.

Your Therapist is Unethical

Your therapist might be engaging in harmful, unethical behavior, similar to boundary violations.

Here are some instances of unethical therapist conduct:

  • practicing outside of their field
  • lying about their degree or licensure
  • breaking confidentiality laws
  • abandoning their clients

Dealing with unethical therapy practices can vary depending on the circumstance. For example, a conversation with your therapist may be necessary for some behaviors, while reporting to their licensing board may be required for others.

Inconsistency From You or Your Therapist

Consistency is essential for both therapists and clients to achieve therapeutic goals. Having a therapist who frequently cancels on you or skips multiple sessions can make it difficult to reach your goals.

Suppose your therapist assigns you homework or asks you to reflect on something, for instance. Your therapist might recommend new treatment objectives if you miss several sessions.

Your Therapist Lacks Cultural Competency

Your therapeutic connection and development may be hindered if your therapist is unwilling or unable to understand.

Understanding the client’s perspective is a necessary component of effective therapy. You might need to choose a therapist who can relate to your world if your therapist ignores or exhibits a reluctance to grasp cultural elements.

Finding a therapist or switching therapists could include looking for one with suitable cultural awareness.

How To Tell If Therapy Is Working For You

Depending on the type of therapy you receive, how frequently you visit your therapist, whether you explore topics in depth or only on the surface, and your level of consciousness, insight, and understanding, therapy may or may not be effective.2

Although sometimes just a few sessions can have a significant impact, most people need a year to 18 months to experience a noticeable change.

Working through these “meh” times might help you focus more on the job that counts. It can be monotonous, tiresome, or appear like not much is happening at times.

You should be aware that therapy doesn’t always improve your mood after each session. On the contrary, deep emotional labor might occasionally be the exact thing that leaves you feeling worn out, teary-eyed, and depleted afterward. Still, it can also be the thing that produces long-lasting, positive effects.

Additionally, here are a few signs that may indicate that therapy is working for you:3

  • Your relationships with others begin improving
  • You hear your therapist’s voice in your head
  • Your bond with your therapist is more solid
  • Your sense of self-worth improves
  • You’re more tolerant of your emotions
  • You find yourself reflecting on what motivated you to seek counseling
  • You become more accountable for your behavior
  • Your general health improves
  • Your therapist reports that you have made progress.

Insurance may be able to help cover the cost of therapy. Find out if your insurance provider can help with the costs by filling in our confidential insurance verification form below.

What To Do If Therapy Isn’t Working For You

Your therapist should be the first person you contact if you say, “therapy doesn’t help me.” It’s important to ask the following questions:

  • How soon should I expect to see outcomes?
  • What type of therapy services are you administering, and is it too soon to try a new strategy?
  • Is there anything I can do to make therapy more effective?
  • Would medicine be helpful?

In addition, you can pursue lifestyle changes. Therapy is only one step—not the entire journey—of your recovery. Your therapist can offer you the assurance and fortitude you need to pursue lifestyle treatments, which is one of therapy’s most significant advantages.

Each individual is unique, and every mental health illness necessitates a somewhat different course of treatment. However, in general, implementing the following lifestyle adjustments can frequently assist you in overcoming behavioral and mental issues:

  • Establishing a routine and setting aside time each day to plan your day. Remember that time can be budgeted just like money, and you might discover that you have more of it and less worry.
  • Make healthy choices for your environment and lifestyle. For example, leave an abusive relationship if you are in one or work to end disagreements with loved ones.
  • Consume a balanced, nutritious diet high in lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Engage in 150 minutes or more of cardiovascular exercise every week.
  • Establish a regular sleep schedule by waking and falling asleep at the same times every day. Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Get into meditation. Consider yoga or mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy if meditation is not your thing. All of these require you to slow down and concentrate on your breathing.

Furthermore, you must do the homework if therapy isn’t helping you. Nothing your therapist can say will miraculously reorganize your brain’s connections and instantly improve your life. In contrast, therapy is demanding. Nevertheless, you can develop new coping strategies and get past your previous issues by paying attention to and following your therapist’s guidance.

You can also speak with your doctor. According to research, combining treatment and medicine is the most efficient strategy for treating many mental health disorders. Your doctor can also assist you in more ways than just getting medication.

Health issues may hinder your development, and some physical health issues can be mistaken for mental health issues. For instance, the sluggishness some hypothyroidism sufferers have can resemble depressive symptoms. Therefore, ask for blood tests and provide your doctor with a clear, thorough list of your symptoms and medical history. It may be the case that you have a treatable health issue.

Finally, it may be time to try a different therapist. It’s not enough to like your therapist because there are significant variances in their level of expertise. As previously mentioned, the therapeutic relationship is one of the most critical factors in whether or not therapy will work for you. If therapy isn’t working for you, consider whether your current therapist is the proper fit and research your options at various mental health treatment clinics.


  1. Moore, Marissa. “8 Reasons Why Therapy May Not Be Working.” Psych Central, Psych Central a Red Ventures Company, 20 May 2022, psychcentral.com/health/reasons-why-someone-in-therapy-may-not-be-getting-better.
  2. Nelson, Jennifer. “Psycom.Net.” PSYCOM, 26 May 2020, www.psycom.net/is-therapy-working.
  3. Cutolo, Morgan. “Is Your Therapy Working? 9 Signs Your Therapist Is Helping You.” The Healthy, Trusted Media Brands, Inc., 29 Sept. 2020, www.thehealthy.com/mental-health/therapy-is-working.

If you suspect that you or someone you love suffers from mental health disorders, contact Athena Care today.

One of our friendly associates will help you get the help you need. Take this first step to feel better and take control. 

(615) 320-1155