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5 Helpful Tips After an Unhelpful Therapy Experience

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After agonizing over troubles, you or your loved one finally decided to call a mental health therapist and go to therapy. Awesome job! Except, now, you feel like you took that hard step and were hoping to see some change, but you don’t feel like anything is different. Maybe it’s even gotten worse? Maybe a spouse started therapy and you two fight even more since they started?

There is hope.

There are many reasons why you could be feeling this way. Here are some tips to keep pushing through.

1. Tell your therapist you don’t feel like the therapy is helping.

Your therapist is required to complete a treatment plan. There will be certain goals and objectives involved in this planning phase. Your therapist can help you understand where you’re going, or they may ask more questions to adjust the plan since you’re not feeling the original one. If you’re afraid to tell your therapist you don’t think treatment is currently helpful, there’s a problem that should be addressed. If it’s still unhelpful, move to tip two.

2. Try again, with a different kind of therapist.

If you’ve had unhelpful therapy in the past to the point that you feel like therapy is terrible, try again, but this time with someone who does things differently. There are hundreds of ways to administer mental health therapy. In my area, the majority of therapists use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but there are tons of places that use different techniques. There’s accelerated resolution therapy, solution-focused therapy, narrative therapy, person-centered therapy, cognitive processing therapy, art therapy (like painting), animal therapy, outdoor therapy, online therapy, and the list goes on and on. Some therapists are “trauma-informed” and some are not. Maybe the type of therapy your therapist uses is not the one that works best for your brain.

At your first session with a new therapist, ask them about their “modality of treatment.” This is the lens they will use to view your mental health experience.

3. Pick a new therapist that looks different than your last one.

Maybe your old therapist’s personality, gender identity, voice pitch, fashion, age, cologne, or really anything was just not rubbing you the right way. If you’ve experienced trauma in the past, your therapist might be triggering your brain to react in such a way that is not helpful for you. Try looking for a new therapist that is different to the one you had before. Not every therapist is going to be a perfect fit for everyone, no matter how good they are at giving therapy. Be sure to mention this to your new therapist, because it could be relevant to treatment.

4. Find a therapist with a new acronym.

Licensed professionals usually have the license acronym at the end of the name. For example, mine is Rachel Terry, MA, LPC-S. That actually means Rachel Terry, Master of Arts (my degree), Licensed Professional Counselor (my license to practice) — Supervisor (a license designation).

To name a few others, we have:

LCSW — Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

LMFT — Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

LCDC — Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor.

This is a very short list of many acronyms that could be used to designate someone who was licensed to treat mental health struggles. If you went to an LCSW previously, try going to an LPC to see if they’re a better fit for your needs. Different degree programs have different requirements to graduate. Perhaps you needed someone who had more education in counseling theory than someone who was trained in social programs.

5. Get a physical.

Go see your doctor for a check-up. You could be low on vitamin D. Your hormones could be out of whack causing mental health struggles. Maybe you’re experiencing back pain that is manageable but costing you emotionally and mentally. It could also be diet or exercise, or it could be an underlying issue that you didn’t know about. Your doctor can typically refer you to a therapist as well after your check-up.

Remember, if something isn’t working, experiment with different things until something does work. Then you can do more of that, and less of what doesn’t work.

Getty Images photo via venimo

Originally published: April 6, 2021
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