Why Therapy Doesn’t Work For Everyone?
Therapy is not always a sure way to fix and resolve issues within your life.
Of course, opening up and talking to a third party with expertise about certain topics can really help set you on the right path towards a better emotional state, but for some people, therapy just doesn’t click like it does for others.
It can be really disheartening to hear how therapy changed someone else’s life or how someone else made really quick progress with their therapist, only to look at your own progress and find yourself struggling.
But this is nothing to beat yourself over – therapy just doesn’t work for everyone, and there’s no shame in that.
There are actually a lot of different reasons why you may be struggling to make any progress with your therapist.
We have pulled a lot of them together to make this list that explains a lot of the reasons why therapy doesn’t work for some people.
Take a look and see if there are any reasons on here that speaks to you – then, you can identify the problem and resolve to fix it.
Underlying Factors Affecting The Client’s Perception
Mental health issues have a lot of underlying factors that can change the way we think, act, and feel in certain situations.
Our behavior can become unhealthy due to skewed perceptions of reality that affect our interactions and opinion of ourselves.
For these reasons, those with mental health issues can have skewed perceptions about therapy that creates blocks in the road towards better mental health.
Such behaviors include aggression, anger, unrealistic expectations, impatience, being overcritical, and more. These kinds of behaviors can really affect how you view the therapy and it’s progress.
For example, someone who has unrealistic expectations may expect that after a few weeks of therapy, their mental health issues will just go away.
When those issues do not, they may then assume that therapy doesn’t work because their issues are not ‘fixed’.
The reality is that that person may have begun to make progress towards working out their mental health issues and found better ways to cope in certain situations, but their skewed perception of therapy made them give up because it did not match their expectations.
The same goes for those who are overly sensitive to criticism. A therapist should always offer recommendations and highlight areas that the client needs to work on to help their mental health state.
However, the client may view this as criticism and take it personally.
These are some reasons why people may view therapy as useless or unhelpful – when sometimes, it can take weeks, months or years before a client can truly appreciate how far they have come since they began.
We are all afraid of something, but some clients may have fears that are rooted in traumatic experiences or in underlying factors in their mental health.
For example, those who are afraid of being judged may avoid therapy or struggle with it because they feel that their therapist is judging them for their actions, thoughts or feelings.
Those who have rejection or attachment issues may not like therapy because it involves being vulnerable with a stranger, growing a bond over time in an intimate and personal setting can cause them to cut off and become closed off in a survival instinct to protect themselves.
This will obviously seriously affect their progress, but it is something they can control. That client may stop therapy altogether to avoid their fears, and those underlying fears and factors go on unaddressed.
This may make it seem as though the therapy did not work when the client did not engage or continue with sessions.
Issues With The Therapist
It’s not fair to try and blame anyone for therapy not working for an individual but sometimes, if you are struggling with therapy, the solution you might need is a change in therapist.
Perhaps you feel there is a clash in personalities and you are struggling to connect with your therapist, or that you don’t like the methods and approach the therapist is taking when working with your personal issues.
This does not mean that therapy doesn’t work – it just means you need a different therapist.
Not all therapists are the same. Everyone has different approaches, some are more advanced with dealing with certain traumas than others, and some just are not effective therapists.
You need to feel as comfortable as possible during your therapy session and if the therapist is not meeting that need in any way, you are well within your rights to look elsewhere.
Sometimes, it can take a few tries before finding a therapist you really click with and this change can mean a huge difference with your mental health.
Wrong Therapeutic Approach
With therapy, there are multiple ways you can improve your mental health and pathways you can take towards progress and success.
These pathways are called ‘approaches’ and they relate to the methods the therapist uses during your therapy sessions.
The therapist will try out an approach but this approach may not be what suits you. It’s like how there are different ways to learn how to swim – you may be more adept at one method than another.
So, if you feel that your therapy isn’t working, have a talk with your therapist about their approach and see if there is something else you can try.
They should remain professional and tailor their approach to suit you best, but remember – sometimes therapy does come with a challenge, but your therapist should provide you with encouragement, guidance, support and feedback to help you improve.
Therapy is often talked about and everyone will be eager to share their experiences. For some, it worked great but for others it might have been a dud.
Some may give you false impressions of therapy including it doesn’t work, that therapists are mean, or that it’s very intimidating and scary.
Some may say that you should see improvements in your behavior and emotions within the first few sessions or first few months, or others might tell you it’ll take years and years before you start to feel better.
The important thing to remember when starting therapy is that your experience will be completely unique to everyone else’s.
What other people say worked or didn’t work for them may or may not apply to you – the only way you can find out if therapy is the best path for you is to try it out yourself.
False impressions that therapy is a sure way to fix all your problems or that therapy is useless and a waste of time will impact your mindset going in.
Don’t set yourself up for disappointment or failure by refusing to engage or setting your expectations too high.
Other people may think they are being helpful by sharing their opinions, but sometimes it can be more damaging than helpful. Keep in mind that everyone’s experience with therapy is different when talking about therapy with others.
So those are a few core reasons why therapy doesn’t work for everyone.
A lot of people may go in with the mindset that they are wasting their time, and then refuse to cooperate to prove themselves right.
Some people may have set their expectations too high and then decide that it doesn’t work for them because their mental health issues are still prevalent after just a few sessions.
Sometimes, the reasons why you are not progressing in your therapy could be out of your hands.
Perhaps your therapist isn’t great or you just don’t get along, maybe the approach they are using is not suited to your needs – or perhaps you have some kind of trauma or fear that is keeping you closed up and preventing you from engaging with your therapist.
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons for why therapy doesn’t always work for everyone.
Therapy is also a field of medicine that is constantly under development and everyday we are learning of new ways to help people cope with their mental health.
So, while we definitely would recommend that you try out therapy, don’t beat yourself up if you find you aren’t seeing the results you want.
Sometimes it takes patience, other times a new therapist. Keep trying and we hope that you see the results you wanted soon.
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT
Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.
Last updated: September 24, 2023