Therapy Isn’t Working: 10 Signs To Seek A New Therapist
Some individuals may go into therapy with high hopes, only to feel let down if the situation didn’t go as they had planned. They might feel that others are finding benefits from therapy that they aren’t. In some cases, people may feel that therapy is not effective due to an adverse experience with one provider.
If you've struggled with therapy, you may have met with an incompatible counselor or tried the wrong type of therapy for your symptoms. Effective treatment may help you grow through challenges and better understand yourself and how your life experiences have impacted you. It can provide you with the tools and resources to meet your goals. However, if you’re not finding these benefits, it may be valuable to seek a new therapist.
10 Signs Your Counselor Is Not A Suitable Fit
If you’re struggling with a counselor, it may be a sign that they’re not a suitable fit. If they fit any of the below criteria, consider reaching out for a new provider or switching therapists. Studies show that a therapeutic and respect-based relationship with your provider can be essential for therapy effectiveness, especially in certain modalities like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
1. They Push Their Beliefs On You
Your therapist is an individual outside of sessions. However, as a therapist, they are required to uphold the ethical code of conduct outlined by the American Psychological Association. If they are creating a conflict of interest, judgment, or explicit bias, they may be harming the therapeutic relationship. If they try to push spiritual, religious, political, or cultural beliefs on you, it could signify they are overstepping their limits as a therapist.
2. They Only Talk About Themselves
Your therapist’s job is to focus on your symptoms, treatment plan, and therapy goals. You are paying them to support you as a professional. If they spend all of the session giving anecdotal evidence to their claims or discussing their personal life, it may take away from the time you paid for to talk about your concerns.
If they continue to tell stories about themselves or turn the session back to themselves to talk about their life, you might not benefit from therapy with this provider. Experienced therapists may pay attention to what you say, ask leading questions, and provide value to you. If they bring up information about themselves, it may be tied to your situation and a brief relation to what you stated.
3. You Feel Ashamed After Your Session
If your therapist judges your thoughts or actions, it may make you feel shame. If you feel uncomfortable talking about certain topics because of judgment or unkindness, consider why you feel this way. Are you feeling judged because of guilt or shame outside of your sessions, or has the therapist told you something that has hurt you? If your therapist is making judgmental commentary, confront them. If it continues, consider looking for a new therapist.
Additionally, if you ask your therapist to change their approach for you to feel more comfortable and they refuse because they are the therapist, they may not be respecting your goals or wishes as the client. Although they are professionals, you are hiring them for a service, and unhelpful commentary may do more harm than healing.
4. You Leave Feeling Worse
There are times when you might feel worse after a therapy session if you are experiencing challenging symptoms or talked about complex topics during therapy. Therapy can be difficult and may push you to dig into profound emotions and discuss painful experiences.
However, as you continue through your sessions and treatment, you may eventually leave feeling that you had a breakthrough or made progress. Over time, if you can look back to your first session and see that you’ve made changes for the better, it may mean therapy is working. If you’ve attended several sessions and feel worse than before, let your therapist know. If you aren't satisfied with their solutions, it may signify an opportunity to change providers.
5. They Are Sharing Your Information
Some professional organizations have codes of conduct that cover disclosure outside of sessions, and a case before the Supreme Court has established psychotherapist-patient privilege. If you don't feel that your therapist is keeping your trust, stop talking to them.
6. Appointments Are Never Available
If you have to wait weeks or months to get an appointment each time you meet your therapist, consider a different provider. Inconsistent sessions may affect your treatment plan. Although the therapist may be qualified and quality, waiting long periods to talk to them can be challenging, especially if you’re experiencing an immediate conflict or distressing experience. Many healthy therapists will not take on more clients than they can handle and may leave a few time slots open for cancellations or past clients to take advantage of.
7. They Are Constantly Checking Their Watch
If you notice your therapist checking the clock instead of focusing on your conversation, it may indicate a desire for the session to end. Although therapists may have a short window of time between appointments, the time you booked with them can be essential. If you feel that your therapist is preoccupied with their schedule or are often distracted, ask them about it. Let them know you feel distracted by it or that you should wrap up what you’re saying before the time is up.
8. No Treatment Plan Has Been Discussed
For many people, therapy can be a process. You might revisit it from time to time throughout your life but may not continue it every week forever. To know when you are ready to stop seeing your therapist, you may formulate a treatment plan with set goals. When you start therapy, you and your therapist may work together to establish the end goals for treatment and revisit them periodically to check your progress or set a new goal. If your therapist doesn’t create a treatment plan, it may be a warning sign.
9. You Feel Uncomfortable
Unethical or unkind occurrences may happen in therapy that leave clients uncomfortable. In these situations, report your therapist to the board if they are breaking an ethical code or law. Find a new therapist, and note that one therapist’s actions may not set the precedent for all.
10. You Hate Going To Therapy
Therapy can be challenging. However, if you hate every session and don’t feel it has ever been enjoyable or helpful, it could mean you’re not connecting with your therapist. Although therapy might not be fun or exciting, it could still offer positive emotions from time to time. Many clients feel a professional and therapeutic connection with their therapists and may feel grateful for the service they provide. If you do not feel this way, consider why.
How To Find An Effective Therapist
If you haven't had success in the past, it may not mean that therapy doesn’t work for you. Studies show that 75% of clients utilizing therapy find it effective and beneficial. If you are part of the 25% that doesn’t, consider writing a pros and cons chart about your therapist. If you find that the cons outweigh the pros, look for a new provider. You can find a new therapist through the following methods.
Start With A Therapy “Green Flags” List
Create a list of all the “green flags” or positive qualities you’re looking for in a provider. Ask yourself the following questions:
What format am I most comfortable communicating with my therapist?
What gender do I want my therapist to be?
How old do I want them to be?
Do I prefer an LGBTQ+ therapist?
Do I prefer a BIPOC therapist?
Do I prefer a culturally or spiritually-informed therapist?
What are my goals for therapy?
What type of therapy do I want to practice?
Do I believe in medication?
How often do I want to attend sessions?
Do I want to see a therapist in person or online?
What are three adjectives I want my therapist to meet? (Ex: kind, empathetic, gentle)
Having these questions answered may give you a place to start your search.
Ask For Recommendations From Others
Ask family and friends if they have any recommendations. However, note that what works for someone else may not work for you. You can also ask your primary care physician for a referral while letting them know your expectations for treatment. They may know of a provider that offers the form of therapy you’re looking for.
Read Online Reviews
Many therapists have reviews online. Read through them to find out what experiences others have had and the effectiveness of their treatment experiences. Reading reviews can help you know what to expect before you meet with a therapist for the first time.
Look At Therapist Credentials
You may feel that anyone who advertises themselves as a counselor is experienced and licensed. However, some people may illegally misrepresent themselves. Take the time to ensure your provider is licensed and that you feel comfortable with their educational and experience level.
Look For Someone That Specializes In Your Preferred Treatment
There are different types of therapy and different reasons that people seek therapy. Look for a therapist specializing in the kind of treatment you seek, whether you’re looking for behavioral therapy, internal family systems (IFS), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or another form of counseling. You can also look for therapists specializing in specific mental health conditions or symptoms like depression, panic attacks, or phobias.
Try Not To Give Up On Counseling
One or a few negative experiences may not mean that therapy doesn't work. Many clients may go through several therapists before they find the proper fit. You can use your initial session or consultation to learn more about a therapist and decide together whether you would be a suitable fit. If not, it can be normal to move on and choose someone else.
If you’re struggling to find a proper fit in person, online therapy may offer ease of finding a provider. With online therapy, you don’t have to worry about finding a nearby therapist with an open appointment or contacting multiple offices in the area to find someone qualified. Through a platform like BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist that directly meets your needs related to treatment types, symptoms treated, reasons for therapy, goals, gender, sexuality, and race or ethnicity. You can also indicate if you have spiritual or religious beliefs you’d like to discuss in counseling.
Multiple studies show that online therapy is effective. One review concluded that online cognitive-behavioral therapy was beneficial in treating and managing symptoms of numerous conditions, including depression, anxiety, panic disorder, OCD, and bipolar disorder. If you’ve had trouble finding a therapist, online therapy might be the solution.
It can be frustrating to hear other people talk about the benefits of therapy if you haven’t had the same experience. If you’re ready to try again, consider signing up for an online platform or conducting another search in your area. Before meeting with a provider, get a sense for their communication style by calling them or sending an email to discuss their treatment approach and set an appointment for a short consultation.