Article and Poll: Why Therapy Didn’t Work for Me

posted 8 months ago in Wellness
  • poll: If you have had therapy, was it helpful? (Please share your experiences, if you’re comfortable)
    Yes! It was very beneficial. : (42 votes)
    53 %
    Meh. Some of it was worth the effort; no big breakthroughs or anything. : (21 votes)
    26 %
    No, I really didn’t get much out of it. : (15 votes)
    19 %
    It was terrible! The experience was very negative for me. : (2 votes)
    3 %
  • Post # 16
    Member
    955 posts
    Busy bee
    • Wedding: August 2019

    teamroro :  

    Thank you for sharing your EMDR experience. I’m glad you finally found a good fit!

    Post # 17
    Member
    47 posts
    Newbee

    I’ve had great success with a combination of medication and therapy for anxiety. I went to 3 therapists years ago and they were awful experiences and I just gave up and put it in the too hard basket. Things escalated a year ago due to some hardship and I tried again and was lucky enough to find someone who clicked for me. It has helped immensely, and I would have to say taking ownership and following through on the homework I get – mindfulness, etc, makes a huge difference. When I get slack, I spiral again. I was super anti medication and last year I agreed to try it  and for me, it is helping.

    The other thing is general wellness and getting an overall health check up. Sometimes there can be an underlying health issue which can be making a huge impact too!

    Post # 18
    Member
    324 posts
    Helper bee

    First experience with a therapist – meh, I was a teenager and I couldn’t even imagine the root of my problems. It was my mother’s abuse. I didn’t know it was abuse back then.

    Had to change therapist for various reasons – didn’t like the new one, she was SO cold and all “answer this and this test for me”.

    Changed again. The third therapist actually managed to convince me that all my problems were MY fault and that my mother’s abuse was normal behaviour.

    Years later, I’ve recently had a couple session with my boyfriend’s therapist and I loved her. Totally changed how I look at some things. I’m gathering the courage to ask her to recommend me a different therapist so I can start individual counselling.

    Post # 19
    Member
    6789 posts
    Busy Beekeeper
    • Wedding: April 2016

    I think there are several reasons therapy doesn’t “work” for some. Sure, there are bad therapists (even profession has people that suck), but also sometimes that therapist just isn’t the right fit for that patient. It doesn’t mean they’re “bad,” just maybe their personality isn’t what that patient needs or is looking for. That’s why I completely agree with shopping around for the right therapist. 

    My parents are both psychologists, as are basically all their friends, and they commonly refer patients to other therapists if they feel the chemistry isn’t quite right. My mom isn’t going to be the right therapist for everyone, no matter what. 

    There’s also other reasons. As PP said, a lot of times people think therapy isn’t working but they’re not putting 110% in themselves. They go into therapy expecting a “cure” of some sort and they don’t get it because they’re not willing to do the work. 

    Post # 21
    Member
    324 posts
    Helper bee

    sassy411 :  thanks sassy. I think the third therapist had a strong opinion on what my issues were, and tried to make everything fit in that picture. So any issues at school or at home were due to my inability to socialize properly.

    This was after I had walked alone into the social services office to tell them of the horrid emotional abuse I was suffering daily. They sent me to a psychiatrist (my second therapist) “just to run some tests, sweetie”.

    I was 14. I believed them.

    Post # 24
    Member
    1684 posts
    Bumble bee
    • Wedding: June 2019

    I struggle to redeem my choice to go to therapy. It sounds so horrible to say that, but with continued exposure to people with what seem like legitimate, dangerous situations (ie, abusive husband, abusive relationship, drugs, alcohol, compulsive disorders) I continue to feel that my situation is not a valid waste of a therapist’s time.

    I have high-functioning depression and anxiety. That’s it. That’s all. It feels like nothing, but every time I have a panic attack, I’m reminded how horrible it is. High-functioning depression can simply be defined as someone who works hard and does well, not because they want to, but to prove to themselves and to the world that they aren’t a piece of shit (wedding planning is REALLY bringing this to a cold light). I am constantly seeking validation, a pat on the head, a “thank you” – anything to make my efforts visible and acknowledged. I quite literally work myself to death. I didn’t double-major in biochemistry and professional writing in university just because I wanted to, I can tell ya that much. Still walked out of that crap with honors because I killed myself to do that well. When I graduated, I cried for that entire weekend, not because I was happy, but because I felt a negative weight lift off my shoulders. 

    I do not make any choice in my life for myself. I entirely always think about how it benefits other people or my appearance to others. The only person in my life who knows how deep this goes is my fiance. I could not live without his support.

    It’s horrible. And yet part of it all is reading other stories like the stories here and thinking, “wtf meg, you don’t have any problems – this is nothing” – and on it goes. 

    My therapist has been incredibly helpful. I love her to tears. She has helped me delve into my past and find the source instance of this constant need for validation. And she helped me realize that this instance has no control over my future. But it has taken five whole YEARS of therapy for me to get to this point. 

    The fact that I still walk into her office and always have something to say to her speaks volumes. And at the end of every session she says how far I’ve come. That also speaks volumes.

    Post # 25
    Member
    1152 posts
    Bumble bee

    sassy411 :  the first therapist I saw judged my every decision and accused me of not wanting help. I refused to open up more to him because he berated my every decision. At that point in my life, I wasn’t making good decisions but he could have been empathetic and helped me understand I was making poor decisions. He should have said “now, do you think that’s a good decision? Your goals are X, Y, Z. Does your decision support your goals?” But instead he said “that was a dumb decision. When are you going to learn?” And then we’d sit in silence for 10 minutes before he’d repeat himself. Ugh so gross. 

    My next two counselors were much more understanding. They approached it as “of course you’re feeling this way. But you want to feel a different way. Here are some exercises you should do to help achieve your goals.” 

    I Have learned I need compassionate therapists. Hate to be sexist but I lean toward women after the first judging male. I need a soft approach and don’t respond well to tough love. I need someone who understands why I am the way I am and will help me make baby steps to overcome my anxieties and other issues. 

    Post # 26
    Member
    1152 posts
    Bumble bee

    megm1099 :  I have felt the same way and my therapist has been really reassuring. She said that everyone always thinks someone else has it worse. A battered wife won’t go to therapy because she’s an adult and physically abused kids need therapy more. We all can benefit from therapy. The more well-adjusted people in this world, the better! 

    Post # 27
    Member
    1254 posts
    Bumble bee
    • Wedding: March 2018 - The Venue, Barkisland, UK

    I’ve been very lucky and only had positive (well, as positive as they can be when you’re wading through shit!) experiences in therapy. By far the most effective for me was EMDR, but I’ve also done some CBT too.

    Post # 28
    Member
    412 posts
    Helper bee
    • Wedding: May 2019

    I am lucky that most of the therapists I’ve worked with over the course of my life have been great. 

    My first experience with therapy was in middle school. A teacher thought I might have symptoms of depression and as a result, I was mandated to see the school psychologist for a couple sessions. My parents thought this was bullshit, because in their opinion, if you needed therapy, that meant you had “serious mental problems” and were basically beyond repair. (It wasn’t BS though, because looking back I was definitely depressed; my parents were just in denial about my situation and woefully uneducated at the time about mental illness and how therapy works.) My mom told me not to give them a lot of information so that I wouldn’t be put on anti-depressants at a young age and potentially create more complications in my life. I’m sure that therapist was great, but with my discomfort and refusal to open up, not a lot of progress was made, and my parents switched me out of that school a month or two later.

    In my senior year of high school, my parents forced me into therapy because I was dying from anorexia and bulimia, and they were at their wits’ end with how to deal with it. I thought they were joking at first, given their stance on therapy, but they were completely serious. The therapist we saw for family counseling was a really sweet woman who was so helpful. I was very depressed and at the lowest point in my life, and she helped immensely with getting me back on track so that I would be able to handle college. She even helped keep my parents in check, who were sometimes difficult to deal with because they would (understandably) get frustrated at times.  

    Things began to unravel during college though. My university offered a dozen free counseling sessions for students at the school’s mental health center. I used up most of them. I won’t say any of the therapists were bad, because I always walked out feeling better. It’s just that I never got the same person twice, and the center didn’t offer regular counseling services — for that, they would refer you to local therapists in the area. Without continued therapy, the occasional one-off sessions were just temporary band-aids. 

    Inevitably, I became suicidal (and unlike instances in the past, the urges would not go away, even after a couple months) and completely lost the ability to function and perform basic tasks, much less complete my demanding coursework. I went on medical leave and moved back with my parents in order to pursue treatment. My parents found a highly recommended therapist, and we began going for family therapy. He is a miracle worker! I also saw a psychiatrist in conjunction this time, and that’s when I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder and put on medication. My therapist advocated for me and was able to effectively explain to my parents what I was going through, which they had never completely understood before. In fact, he totally changed their views and outlook on mental illness and therapy. The first couple of years were rough, as I went through ups and downs, personality changes and medication changes before finding a good combination of meds and stabilizing. My therapist worked with me on slowly becoming functional again, and eventually I was able to go back to complete my bachelor’s degree and go on to build a career. Nine years after our initial appointment, I still see him individually every month or two. There’s no way I would be where I am in life without his help. 

    The other therapist I’ve seen was for couples therapy with my ex, which was really couples therapy with an emphasis on CBT for him. (My ex had ADHD, anxiety, and depression; he couldn’t hold down a job or complete a school program, and didn’t display any goal-oriented behavior. His inability to function was holding our relationship back and causing problems in the relationship. Therapy was my last-ditch effort to save the relationship.) The therapist we saw worked at the same practice as my regular therapist and was recommended by him. This guy was an excellent therapist; the failing was not on his part, but my ex’s. We would discuss and clearly lay out goals for each week, and then my ex would just fail to do any of them. At first I understood, because of course not every week will be perfect, and sometimes you will take a few steps backward. But after months of no progress, it just felt like my ex was not even trying, and I no longer had the patience and had to move on with my life. My ex always claimed “therapy doesn’t work for me,” but the truth is, YOU have to work for IT. What I’ve learned over the years is that you can have the best therapist, but what you get out of therapy is only as good as the effort you put in. 

    Post # 29
    Member
    3217 posts
    Sugar bee
    • Wedding: January 2021

    sassy411 :  I’ve been pretty lucky and managed to just sort of stumble on a good counselor or therapist every time I’ve needed one. I’ve had a much harder time finding a good GP than I ever had finding a good therapist.

    At the same time though, I think my issues have maybe been a bit easier for therapists to navigate because they’re not really all that complicated.

    I will say that it was only the most recent psychologist that I started seeing last year that finally put a finger on that it might be undiagnosed ADHD causing anxiety which causes depression.  Past counselors always did a decent job of talking me down from the ledge, so to speak, but never really did much to figure out why I was there in the first place. What I learned from this ecperience is that if you just need some help talking through your emotions, any counselor will do for the most part, whether they’re a social worker, psychologist or some other designation, but if you need to figure out why you’re feeling the way you are in the first place, a social worker probably isn’t gonna cut it. All the counselors I saw before this one were SWs. 

    Post # 30
    Member
    414 posts
    Helper bee
    • Wedding: December 2016

    I had pretty severe PPD, and my GP referred me to a therapist. The first session was kind of awkward, mostly just going over my history and her explaining the concept of CBT. I wasn’t comfortable totally opening up to a stranger at that point, and that seemed to annoy her. She kept telling me that I needed to put my daughter in daycare, because I obviously needed a break from caring for her by myself (husband travels for work). And I agreed with her, but we couldn’t afford daycare. It wasn’t a viable option at that time.

    Second visit, she again brought up daycare, and I again told her that it wasn’t something that we could afford. She asked me what I hoped to gain from our sessions, and I told her that I wanted to actually enjoy motherhood and to stop feeling like there was a dark cloud hanging over my head constantly.

    That was apparently not a good enough answer, and she told me that she was going to cancel our third appointment until I “figure[d] out what [I] actually want[ed].” When I went to my GP for a follow up, the therapist had reported back to her that I was uncooperative and that therapy wasn’t a “good fit” for me.

    I can definitely appreciate that therapy is massively beneficial for many people, but I definitely had a bad experience that seems to be outside the norm. At this point, I’m not sure I’d be willing to try again.

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