Why You Should Stay in Therapy, Even if It's 'Not Working'
I hear so many people say they stopped therapy because it wasn’t for them or they just couldn’t get on with it, and they’re still really struggling. I know for some people, it isn’t right, but I don’t think for one second that 100 percent of those who stop therapy are those people.
A few years ago, I struggled with psychotic depression and anxiety, which for me, went hand in hand with self harm and suicidal tendencies. I was put on multiple medications but was told talk therapy was my best option. I was desperate for help and would have tried anything at that point, so I took the therapy. For a couple of months, I was seen by a psychologist on a regular basis and a psychiatrist once in a while for medication reviews. I really disliked my psychologist. She thought chamomile tea and wave noises would “solve” my insomnia. Now, I’m not saying that doesn’t work for some people, but she just couldn’t understand why, when I tried it, it did absolutely nothing for me. We just weren’t on the same page.
Once it became apparent that those sessions were a waste of time for me, I was moved on to weekly psychiatrist appointments. Each session just consisted of her asking me lists upon lists of questions and me filling out questionnaires in the waiting room, which she’d asked me all the questions to anyway.
I was later moved to an early intervention for psychosis service, where I was assigned an amazing community mental health nurse. He would come and see me at school, at home and in hospital and he’d organize for me and chat with me for hours. He was more like a friend than a nurse, he was amazing. But when I was diagnosed with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, psychotherapy was suggested for treatment along with medications. Psychotherapy wasn’t offered with EI, so I had to go back to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service and leave my wonderful nurse behind.
Psychotherapy is a deep talking therapy and in my experience, it is about analyzing your thoughts and feelings and finding answers for why you feel that way. One of the rules of psychotherapy for me was I had to choose what to talk about in each session — the therapist wasn’t allowed to prompt me in anyway. I found this extremely hard and there were an awful lot of awkward silences, especially in the beginning. I hated therapy. I dreaded each session and couldn’t wait for it to end once I was in there.
My therapy was indefinite, so there wasn’t a time scale of eight weeks and that was it. I initially had a six week assessment period with a one hour session every week, but I ended up staying for two years, by which point I’d ran out of things to talk about and wanted to start moving on with my life. I’d recovered from my psychotic depression and had my anxiety under control, but there was never a point when I felt like I was getting better. It was only one day while talking with my psychiatrist that I realized I had recovered. Things had been getting better for two and a half years, I’d just never noticed.
Looking back now, the analyzing we used in psychotherapy, I still use today. I use it every single day without even realizing. When I’m anxious, I analyze. Why am I feeling this way, is it rational, can I overcome it? But at the time, I hated psychotherapy. It “wasn’t working” for me. It took me two years to realize therapy had been working, even the people around me didn’t notice because it was so slow and gradual. I didn’t think I’d shared enough. I would go in, sit in silence for nearly 10 minutes and then talk about what had happened that week. I didn’t go in and share my feelings, they were prodded and poked out of me in small doses without me realizing. I didn’t feel comfortable with my two therapists, but I didn’t need to.
That is why it frustrates sometimes me when people give up therapy. I felt like I wanted to stop, but I continued on, humoring them, and now I’m in a great place — it just took a while. So, please do me a favor. If you’re thinking of quitting therapy, please don’t. Chances are you’ll thank me one day.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo via kimberrywood.