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Therapy isn’t working? Maybe you need a new therapist.

In previous blog posts, I discussed how to find a therapist. What a process it is in our healthcare system. But now you are finally sitting on a semi-comfortable couch, waiting to pour out your thoughts and feelings about the trials and triumphs of your life.

As you’re talking, you notice your therapist doesn’t seem engaged. They are looking at their notepad, nodding occasionally. You start to speak slower and give them a questioning look. Finally, you work up the courage to ask, “what are you writing?” The therapist looks up and says with confidence, “Oh I just like to take notes in session, keep going.”

Then you start to think about you seem to be the only one talking and you wonder if therapy is supposed to feel like this. Sometimes you leave feeling more discouraged than you did before you arrived to the session.Is it possible that therapy just doesn’t work for you?

Not necessarily! This therapist, while they may work well for someone else, just may not be the right therapist for you and that’s okay. Therapists are people and people come with their own individual characteristics and behaviors. On top of individual characteristics and qualities, there are also different schools of thought [theories] on how therapy should go to best treat symptoms. Some theories focus more on childhood and how it impacts how we can act as adults. Some theories focus more on how the symptoms impact your life. Other theories focus on why your symptoms are there in the first place. Still, others focus on your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings and how they are all connected.

Perhaps your therapist is practicing with a theory that is not beneficial for you and your life. Maybe your personalities just don’t mesh. Maybe you would benefit more from dance therapy or art therapy or therapy combined with yoga and mindfulness. Maybe you would benefit from a therapist who is more conservative or a therapist who utilizes humor more in their sessions.

If you are seeing a therapist and you feel it is not benefiting you, the good news is you have the right to ask for a new therapist. If you are at an agency, there may be a process for this. Ask your therapist directly if you can be referred to another therapist within the agency. If you are seeing a therapist in private practice, ask if you can have a referral to a therapist who works with (insert symptoms/diagnosis here.)

If you are anxious about making this request, try saying this in the mirror, “Hi therapist so and so, I really appreciate the time and effort you have put into my treatment. At this time, I do not feel this style of treatment is working for me and I would like a referral to another specialist.” Ideally, the therapist will appreciate the direct and honest communication with a promise to provide additional resources and additional referrals. If your therapist pushes back or refuses, know that you are not obligated to stay in this professional relationship. See my previous post for therapist directory options.

Seeking therapy is a big step and although it can be intimidating to verbalize dissatisfaction with your provider, know this is a big step towards recovery and a healthier mindset. Treatment is possible, but only if all the working parts are present including your satisfaction with your treatment and providers.

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