What to do after unhelpful therapy


5 Helpful Tips After Unhelpful Therapy

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's 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 2. 

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 complaints.  

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

Maybe your old therapist's personality, gender, voice pitch, race, fashion, age, cologne (anything really) 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 looks differently than 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.    


  1. Thanks for publishing such great information. You are doing such a great job. This information is very helpful for everyone. Keep sharing about Psychedelic Therapist. Thanks.

  2. To seek counseling requires bravery. Entrusting a complete stranger with your deepest thoughts and feelings during therapy is a vulnerable act. So, having a negative encounter may be very upsetting and disheartening. Even worse, it could cloud your perception of the entire procedure and system. According to clinical psychologist Deborah Serani, PsyD, "just one bad experience can shut a person down, turn them off to a new therapist, and leave them disinterested and even disgusted by the entire mental health system." However, exploring your bad experience and determining why it was so negative can help. In the section below, physicians provide frequent causes of negative encounters as well as tips for navigating therapy in the future.


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