Therapy serves as an excellent tool to help thousands of individuals heal from mental health issues. However, finding the best type of therapy for your needs can be difficult and take time to yield tangible results. When these challenges persist, individuals may even start feeling worse or losing hope. This is often because they don’t know what to do if therapy isn’t working.
Fortunately, there are many ways to pursue mental health treatment. Even if therapy doesn’t work for you right now, there are several changes you can try to adjust your experience. In addition, if you can’t find any form of therapy that improves your mental health, there are different treatment options you can explore instead.
How to Tell if Therapy Isn’t Working
Before we discuss what to do if therapy isn’t working, it’s important to understand what it means for therapy to “work.” The definition of a successful therapy session may differ between individuals. Typically, people want to feel as though they’re making progress toward a better version of themselves.
For example, someone who regularly experiences panic attacks may feel like therapy is working if they have fewer attacks than they used to, or if they’re able to recover from them more quickly.
Similarly, someone with depression may learn how to call out negative self-talk during therapy. If they’re able to say more positive things about themself afterward, they may feel like therapy works.
But what does it look like when therapy isn’t working? Different individuals may have different ideas about this as well. In general, however, if your symptoms are worsening, or if you’ve hit a plateau that’s lasted for several sessions, it may be time to reconsider your treatment approach.
In addition, keep in mind that the benefits of therapy are often subtle, gradual changes. Small progress is still progress, and every step forward is worthy of celebration. That being said, if you feel like you aren’t making any progress at all, you can revisit your treatment plan and determine what to do if therapy isn’t working.
What to Do if Therapy Isn’t Working
It can be frustrating to feel like you aren’t making any progress toward long-term recovery. This is especially true if you’re putting a lot of time and hard work into your therapy sessions. Even so, don’t give up. Improving your mental health is worth your energy and focus.
Below are five examples of what to do if therapy isn’t working the way you hoped. By trying these tips, you can discover new treatment options and adjust your approach to achieve your recovery goals.
1. Reassess Your Therapy Goals
One of the first steps you can take when determining what to do if therapy isn’t working involves adjusting your short-term goals. Some people set large, broad goals for themselves, but these can feel unattainable if they struggle to make progress. In reality, many individuals benefit more from starting with small, simple goals.
For example, you could set a goal to identify your emotional triggers. To do so, you could write them down in a journal and monitor your exposure to them. While this may not seem like progress at first glance, raising self-awareness about your own triggers makes it easier to cope with them moving forward.
Moreover, setting a small treatment goal like this is typically easier to achieve than big, sweeping goals for the future. If you continue to set and meet smaller goals, you’ll build confidence and momentum to carry you further in recovery.
2. Increase the Frequency of Therapy Sessions
When trying to decide what to do if therapy isn’t working, it may seem counterproductive to increase your number of sessions. However, one study found that a higher frequency of therapy sessions, especially at the beginning of someone’s recovery journey, can lead to greater and more sustained improvements.
In other words, the problem could be that you aren’t receiving enough support. For instance, some individuals only have therapy sessions monthly or every other week. More frequent sessions, such as one every week, could provide the additional guidance and structure you need to see improvements.
3. Try a Different Type of Therapy
When someone is trying to figure out what to do if therapy isn’t working, they may be looking for new treatment options that aren’t related to talk therapy at all. However, sometimes the reason therapy doesn’t work for someone involves the type of therapy itself.
For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a very popular form of therapy used to treat a variety of mental health conditions. Though CBT works for many people, it does not work for everyone. Some individuals may benefit more from group therapy sessions or those that involve their family members.
In some cases, trying a different kind of therapy may also involve looking for a new therapist, as some only specialize in certain types. However, don’t let this dissuade you from exploring other options. A good therapist will respect your decision and acknowledge that a different treatment approach could help you more.
4. Explore Medication Options if Therapy Isn’t Working
You may have already tried to make some of the changes addressed above. In that case, you likely want to know what to do if therapy isn’t working no matter what you do. To that end, it may be time to consider other treatment options, such as medication.
Unfortunately, there is a certain level of stigma that still surrounds the use of medication for mental health conditions. However, there is no need to feel ashamed or weak for utilizing every tool you can to heal. Medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) may be able to help you if therapy hasn’t.
In fact, one double-blind trial found that SSRIs and SNRIs were both significantly more effective than placebos in treating numerous mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Though it may take time to find the best medication for you, ample evidence suggests they work, especially when used in conjunction with therapy.
5. Consider Inpatient Mental Health Treatment
Even if you try all of the above tips, there are times when occasional therapy sessions aren’t enough to help you recover, whether you supplement them with medication or not. In those cases, you may want to consider inpatient mental health treatment instead.
Residential treatment is the most intensive form of mental health care. When someone needs substantial support to overcome the obstacles in their life, inpatient treatment can provide the direction they need.
An adult psychiatric program, such as the one offered at Ridgeview Behavioral Hospital, can overhaul your current treatment plan and build a new one tailored to your needs. We can start by evaluating which treatments work, what to do if therapy isn’t working, and what changes you want to see in the future.
Inpatient Mental Health Care in Middle Point, Ohio
Ridgeview Behavioral Hospital is a mental health treatment center located in Middle Point, Ohio. We have experience helping people with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance use disorders, and more.
If you don’t know what to do if therapy isn’t working, we can help you find an effective solution. Our team of mental health professionals will always prioritize your long-term recovery and work hard to develop a new treatment plan that works for you.