Therapy is a vital part of treatment when it comes to mental health. For many people, therapy is often thought of as a terminal treatment, meaning there are no “next steps.” Because of this, many people who undergo therapy become frustrated when therapy isn’t working. This can be extremely demoralizing, and can even make your mental health worse. But, what do you do when therapy isn’t enough? Below, we’ll talk about the steps you can take to get the results you need out of therapy, and what to do when it’s simply not enough.
Talk With Your Therapist About What Your Next Steps Should Be
It’s important to always remember that when therapy isn’t enough, or if therapy simply isn’t working, the first person you should consult is your therapist. If you explain to your therapist that therapy is no longer working, if you just aren’t seeing the results you’d hoped for, they may opt to change their approach, alter what type of therapy you’re receiving, or give you more at-home options to practice between sessions.
When talking with your therapist about why therapy may not be working, it’s important to ask the right questions. Below are some simple questions that can help you voice your concerns to your therapist:
- Is there anything I can do to improve the effectiveness of our sessions?
- How long should it take for me to see results?
- Could medication help?
- What treatment method are we using? Could we try a different approach?
- Could I make any lifestyle changes that may help?
However you choose to convey your thoughts, it’s important to remember that you are your best advocate. When therapy isn’t working, your mental health should take precedent, even if it means having an uncomfortable conversation with your therapist. It’s also important to remember that, at the end of the day, your therapist wants what is best for you. If you feel that therapy isn’t cutting it, they’ll understand, and can help you navigate your next steps.
Try Making Changes to Your Everyday Life
When therapy isn’t enough on its own, your therapist may recommend making some lifestyle changes. Therapy isn’t the only step in your treatment journey. One of the greatest benefits of therapy is that your therapist can give you the tools you need to build your confidence, strength, and willpower to make impactful lifestyle changes.
Every person is different, and every mental health condition requires a different approach and subsequent treatment. A good therapist can help you determine what changes you can make to your everyday life that can help improve your condition. While these recommendations will change for everyone, there are a few recommendations that are often made across the board. Those include:
- Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day, for at least four to five days a week
- Find a regular sleep schedule, and ensure that you go to bed at the same time each night. Try to aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night.
- Take steps to ensure that your environment and lifestyle are healthy and safe. If you are in an abusive relationship, utilize any resources you have around you to leave safely. If you are struggling with problems with family, friends, or work, work to resolve these conflicts.
Practice What Your Therapist Teaches You
It may seem like an obvious point to make, but doing your “homework” is an extremely important part of therapy. When therapy isn’t enough, oftentimes the roadblock can be traced back to simply not practicing what your therapist teaches you.
There’s no magic to therapy. Your therapist can’t say or do anything that will all of a sudden snap you out of whatever condition you’re struggling with. Instead, therapy works by teaching you the tools and life skills that are necessary for living with and overcoming your symptoms. These are skills that, oftentimes, your therapist will ask you to practice at home.
Much the same as learning something new in school, if you don’t do your homework you won’t be able to retain the information you need. By following your therapist’s assignments, you can enable yourself to learn new coping mechanisms, overcome the struggles of your past, and live a healthier lifestyle.
Sometimes, however, your therapist may not give you at-home assignments. What do you do then? Homework doesn’t have to be anything specific or involve physical things like a pen and paper. Instead, homework can be as easy as listening to your therapist with an open mind and doing the things they suggest. If they mention trying to speak your mind more often, it may be a good idea to do so next time you have the opportunity.
If your therapist doesn’t give you any homework, it may be time to start asking for some. If asking for homework becomes regular, it may be a good idea to look for another therapist who specializes in your specific condition, or who is more proactive.
Try a New Therapist
While never easy, finding a new therapist is an important step to take when therapy isn’t enough. Once again, you are your most outspoken advocate when it comes to your mental health. If your current therapist isn’t giving you the results you’d like to see, or if there are other reasons for leaving, there is no shame in moving on.
One of the most important factors in whether or not therapy will work is whether you and your therapist are a good match. A therapist that is right for you will accept your values, understand your emotions, and make you feel comfortable and safe. If this doesn’t sound like your therapist, it may be time to find a new one.
However, what do you do if you like your therapist, and you’ve built a relationship with them over a long period, but you’re not seeing results? The sad reality is that there is a big difference between likeability and effectiveness. When therapy isn’t working, it’s important to consider whether your therapist is the best fit for you. If you’re not seeing results, and your therapist hasn’t done any of the following, it may be time to move on:
- Given you a clear understanding of your condition, or a proper diagnosis
- Set specific goals with a timetable for when you can see results
- Talked about the possibility of medication
- Given you a clear understanding of what treatment options are available to you
When Therapy Isn’t Enough, Talk with Your Doctor
Research has shown that when therapy isn’t enough, many mental health conditions benefit significantly from a combination of therapy and medication. If therapy isn’t working, and you’ve tried the above mentioned solutions, it may be time to talk with your doctor about taking medication.
There are many different types of psychiatric medications prescribed for people with mental health conditions. The most common of these include:
- Anti-anxiety medications
Depending on what condition you are living with, how you respond to therapy, and several other factors, your doctor can help you understand what medications may be right for you. However, it’s not just medications that your doctor can help you with.
Depending on your condition, certain health problems may arise as a result of mental illness. This can not only interfere with your progress but explain why therapy isn’t enough, as some physical health problems masquerade as mental health problems.
For example, someone with hypothyroidism may experience symptoms such as sluggishness, low mood, and fatigue, all of which are common symptoms of depression. One reason that could explain why therapy isn’t enough may simply be that you don’t have a mental illness. It could be that you’re struggling with an easily treated health problem. When therapy isn’t enough, try asking your doctor for blood work, and ensure that you give them an accurate, detailed list of your symptoms.
What Do You Do When Therapy Isn’t Enough?
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