top of page
  • Writer's pictureSarah Santiago

8 Reasons Why Therapy May Not Be Working For You:

  1. It's not you, it's them: Fit is so important when it comes to a successful therapy experience. Therapists are humans too and we come with all different personalities, styles, and quirks. Some therapists speak only using professional language, while others take a more casual approach by swearing often. Some therapists are serious, no BS, tell-it-like-it-is therapists and some will hold you accountable in a soft, gentle way. Some therapists are energetic with big personalities, and some are wise and soft spoken with few words. It's important that you feel safe, listened to, and believe that your therapist can help you. If your therapist makes you feel uncomfortable, or you don't feel you can trust them enough to open up, or you just wish they would say the F word so that you can finally start letting the F bombs fly yourself... it's okay to bring it up with your therapist (because maybe they were waiting for you to drop the first F bomb) and/or start to search for a new therapist whose personal style is more aligned with your needs. There are many incredible therapists out there, but not all of them are perfect for every person. It's worth the time it takes to find the therapist that feels like the perfect fit for you!

  2. You're not opening up: Therapy can only be effective if you're willing to get vulnerable and talk about the deep stuff. We're not mind-readers (although it might feel like that at times). If your therapist asks you what you want to work on and you consistently say you don't know, your therapist isn't going to be able to target your goals and help you get there. If you consistently tell your therapist that you're doing great when in reality you're not, they won't know what to focus on to specifically help you. I get it, trust me, it's not always easy or comfortable to get deep. It's not always sunshine and rainbows to tell another human about the things that you've been trying to avoid. It makes sense that you might feel resistant to sharing the deep stuff. It's also very okay if you realize you're not ready to go that deep in therapy yet. But if you're ready to move past it, to be free of it, you have to be willing to trudge through it with your therapist. If you pretend it's not there we may not have a clue that it exists at all- and we can't help you address things that we don't know about.

  3. It's the wrong approach: DBT, EMDR, CBT, SFBT, Brain Spotting, ACT, EFT, Psychoanalytical, Person Centered, Group, Gestalt, Individual, IOP, WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS EVEN MEAN?!! Therapists are trained in a variety of approaches to therapy and while many of them can feel similar, many can be widely different. Some approaches are evidenced based to be most effective for treating certain issues, and some approaches just fit well with a person's preferences. If you've tried a specific approach to therapy and found it unhelpful, it might be worth exploring a different approach.

  4. It's the wrong frequency: Therapy is more effective if you are attending at the right frequency. This can be tricky to figure out and is not always a one sized fits all approach. Things like where you're at in your healing journey, the intensity of your symptoms, what you have going on in your life, your financial access to therapy, etc. can all impact your attendance. If you're showing up to therapy once in a blue moon, it might not be frequent enough to support you in meeting your goals. Your therapist can help you explore the right frequency to help you notice the progress you desire.

  5. You're not giving feedback: if you're someone who finds it hard to speak up in most situations, you may find that those same feelings are present in therapy. Therapy is a great place to practice skills you wish you could use out "in the real world". Speaking up when it comes to things you don't find helpful or don't understand in therapy is essential to helping your therapist tailor their work to your unique needs. If your therapist has introduced a new coping skill that you don't find helpful, but you roll with it because you don't want to tell them it's not helping you- your therapist wont know that and will keep rolling with it. If you tell your therapist that you didn't find it helpful, they can help you explore why it may not feel helpful for you and/or stop using it to introduce a new skill that may be more effective based on your needs and preferences. Giving your therapist feedback helps your therapist ensure they are giving you the support that is most effective for you.

  6. You have changed but don't realize it: change tends to be gradual. Over time we can be making gradual progress towards our goals yet not realize how far we've come because it's felt so gradual from day to day. If you don't feel you've made any progress consider where you were at when you started therapy. Your therapist has likely been keeping records on your progress made towards your goals and may be able to help you explore whether or not you've actually been making progress in your work together, and if you have they can usually help you see just how far you've come since you've started. Your therapist should be checking in with you regularly to discuss and review your therapy goals, but you can always bring this up if you are concerned.

  7. It's actually an underlying medical issue: untreated medical issues can mimic the symptoms of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. It's important to meet with your physician regularly for physicals, and it's always a good idea to also meet with your physician when starting therapy to do a full workup and rule out any potential medical conditions based on your current symptoms.

  8. Treatment resistant issues: while rare, this certainly does exist. There is treatment resistant depression for example, and alternate treatments are reserved for cases in which therapy and medications have not proven effective. These treatments are considered last resorts in many cases, only utilized once everything else has been tried, however can be life changing for those who have treatment resistant diagnosis. It's important to talk with your therapist and medical provider if you wish to explore these options.

There can be many reasons why you're not finding therapy to feel effective. Therapy is an investment of both your time and money and while it's common for therapy to feel weird at first, eventually you should feel yourself making progress towards your goals. If you ever have concerns about the effectiveness of therapy, it's a good idea to explore this with your therapist. They can either make changes in your work together to help it be more effective, or they can help refer you to a different therapist who may be a better fit for you based on what you're looking for.

It can feel frustrating when you don't feel that therapy is working, however it is possible to find the therapist, style, and approach that is right for you. You are not broken, there is hope. Reach out today if you need help getting connected to the right support.

Note: This blog post is not intended to replace professional advice. If you are experiencing severe anxiety or mental health issues, it is recommended to consult with a licensed mental health professional. If you are in a crisis, please seek help immediately. National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call: 800-799-7233 Text*: START to 88788 TTY: 800-787-3224 Chat:

About the author: Sarah Santiago is a licensed professional counselor in Michigan. She provides therapy to Michigan college students and emerging adults (ages 18-29) virtually. Her specialties include helping clients work through anxiety, eating disorders, and improving self-confidence.

5 views0 comments


bottom of page