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What to do if therapy for your depression isn’t working out

Ben Brafman, LMC, CAP CEO/Founder and Clinical Director The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center, Destination Hope: The Women’s Program
What to do if therapy for your depression isn’t working out

Sometimes it can be tricky finding the right person to guide you out of your depression. However, you may find it difficult to make the decision to fire the person you hired to help you out in the first place - your therapist. Here is a helpful list of do’s and don’ts to help you figure out what the best approach for you is.


Do

Do talk to your therapist about your concerns

If you are having doubts about the effectiveness of your therapist, now is not the time to shut down communication with them. Talk to them about what is and what isn’t working and see if you can come to an agreement over what to do about it. Do this regularly so that you both stay on the right track.

Do recognize that therapy takes time and hard work

It might not be the therapist who needs changing, but rather your perspective. If you have opened up a dialog with them and have a comfortable relationship, but feel like you’re not getting better as quickly as you’d anticipated, remember that overcoming depression can be a bumpy, difficult path and isn’t necessarily a linear path toward being healed. You may feel frustrated, but this is normal.

Do reassess your goals

One reason why you may feel your therapist isn’t working out is because you have adjusted your goals without discussing them. You may not even realize that this has happened over the course of your treatment. This means your current therapist may not be equipped to deal with where you are now and a new approach to your therapy may need to be developed or another mental health professional may need to be called in to better meet your needs.

Do make changes and review them regularly

If you have talked with your therapist about your concerns and you have decided to work together to develop a new course of action to meet those needs, you need to make sure that you review them regularly together to make sure you’re on the right path. Therapists are trained professionals who are able to come up with flexible courses of action to meet your changing needs.

Do fire your therapist if you feel it necessary

Providing your professional relationship is still friendly and positive, this should be the last option. However, if you have tried to work through the other steps on this list and still feel like it isn’t working for you, it’s okay to let your therapist go. Like any professional relationship, you have hired your therapist for a service and if you feel that you need to try another option, it’s perfectly fine. However, remember that therapy for depression takes time and effort, and rashly changing therapists won’t necessarily make that any easier.


Don't

Do not ignore red flags

Does your therapist listen to you attentively when you’re talking about your concerns? Do they nod off? Are they aggressive or manipulative? Do they make you feel guilty when you suggest that the current course of action isn’t working? If your therapist is making you feel uncomfortable, don’t ignore the red flags.

Do not act impulsively or rashly

Are you thinking about firing your therapist because they’re ineffective, or is it because they’re bringing up issues and emotions that you’re not feeling ready to confront yet? It may be possible that it’s not the therapist who is the problem, but rather that you’re going through a rather tricky and painful part of your recovery. Don’t rashly decide to make any major decisions regarding your therapy until you have discussed this with your therapist.

Do not quit too soon

Healing takes time. It also isn’t a straight path to recovery with predictable successes along the way. It can be a long, slow slog and sometimes you may feel like you aren’t making any progress. This may be due to your therapist not being a good match for your needs - or it may just be that it’s a lot harder than you thought it would be. This would be a good time to sit down with your therapist and talk about your healing trajectory and what you can realistically expect to happen and how you can make sure that you are both working toward the same goals.

Do not mistake the truth for conflict with your therapist

Sometimes you really don’t want to hear the truth. It can be painful to acknowledge that you need to make some hard changes in order to heal. Truths about ourselves, especially in our darker moments, can really hurt and we may instinctively feel like we are being insulted or confronted. Before you fire your therapist, you need to ask yourself if what they are telling you is something that could actually help you, even if it’s something that you didn’t really want to hear.

Do not stay if it really isn’t working

If you’ve tried to address the problems you have openly with your therapist and the changes that you’ve made together haven’t helped, it may be time to move on. However, in order to not make a habit of moving from therapist to therapist, it might be a good idea to honestly assess your current needs and goals in order to find someone who can help you to meet them. Every therapist is different and, naturally, some will be a better fit than others. Don’t move on without taking that into consideration.


Summary
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Seeking therapy for your depression can be a stressful course of action as you are placing a lot of trust in someone you don’t really know much about. Unfortunately, sometimes your relationship with a therapist just doesn’t work out for various reasons. If you honestly address the do’s and don’ts in this list, you can have a better idea as to what to do when things aren’t working out as well as you had hoped.


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Ben Brafman, LMC, CAPCEO/Founder and Clinical Director

Ben Brafman, LMHC, CAP, is the Clinical Director, President and CEO of Destination Hope, a nationally recognized substance abuse and dual diagnosis treatment facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. With more than two decades of hands-on experience...

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