What to do when therapy doesn’t work? (3 ways to manage)

In this article, we will be answering the question: what to do when therapy doesn’t work?. We will be discussing the various strategies you could try using when your therapy is not working for you in the way you want and the reasons for the ineffectiveness of therapy.

What to do when therapy doesn’t work?

When you begin to observe that your therapy is not working and helping you in any way, the first and foremost step to take is to talk to your concerned therapist. Most people opt for therapy as a last resort. When they begin to feel suffocated and extremely frustrated with their life, therapy is the last ray of hope they turn to. For instance, a depressed person may bear with his symptoms and his unhappy life until it gets impossible and unbearable. When the breaking point gets closer, the option of therapy becomes more obvious. 

However, starting therapy late has its own set of disadvantages. You could be terribly exhausted and frustrated to begin therapy by the end of that time and you will need to get back to a state of equilibrium before you find the energy to begin therapy, systematically. 

The despair and grief that sets in when you find that therapy is not working can be harsh, intense, and immensely de-moralizing.  However, the point to be kept in mind is that therapy need not necessarily work the first time for everyone. It could be due to the timing, the therapist, your attitude, or your life circumstances. Whatever it may be, you need to understand that there is always next time and alternatives to consider, aplenty. 

What next?

Mental health is just as important as your physical health. When you feel physically ill, you immediately decide to visit your doctor and seek treatment for your ailment. Similarly, when you feel mentally exhausted and frustrated, you must seek help in ways that are comfortable for you. 

When you go into therapy, keep your expectations realistic, and discuss them with your therapist clearly and straightforwardly. This helps clear the air of confusion and hesitation between you and your therapist. 

Honest discussions

When therapy is not helping you, never choose to be quiet about it. Talk to your therapist about your concerns and tell them where exactly are you finding it difficult to move forward with them.

Your therapist could change their approach to treatment, pursue more homework assignments, or if needed, refer you to another therapist that could be more suitable for your needs and expectations. Remember to ask the following questions to your therapist:

  • How long will it take for me to get the results?
  • What treatment approach are we currently using?
  • Is it okay to change the mode of treatment?
  • What can I do on my part to increase the efficacy and healthy development of the sessions?
  • What kind of lifestyle changes should I consider, for better results?
  • Should I try opting for any kind of medication?
  •  Is it okay if I take some time off and start after a good break?

Changes in lifestyle

Though therapy helps you to gain relief from debilitating thoughts and overwhelming emotions, it alone does not suffice to help you grow and be a better person, in the long run. Therapy works both ways. You need to put in the required effort and work together as a team with your therapist, to see the differences and enjoy the benefits of therapy. Lifestyle changes are imminent and unavoidable during therapy. Some of them are as follows;

  • Making a regular schedule and allocating time slots for your day to day activities that require due attention and are highly prioritized. This helps you from fretting about lost time and to get work done on time without being anxious about it. 
  • Make sure to see that you are surrounded by people who support, embrace, and genuinely care for your well-being. Avoid giving your time and energy to those who intend to bring you down mentally and emotionally.
  • If there are unresolved conflicts that seem to bother you incessantly and make you feel overwhelmed, make it a point to talk about these conflicts with the concerned people and come to a middle ground to restore your peace of mind. 
  • Watch your diet and be mindful of your eating habits. Take the effort to switch to a healthy and simple diet, rich in proteins, required vitamins, and stay hydrated at all times. Avoid binge eating because you feel like it and bring a drastic reduction to the amount of processed sugar and fat in your diet. 
  • Try inculcating a minimum of one-fifty minutes of physical workout regime into a week.
  • Get consistent, non-disturbed, and sufficient amount of sleep, regularly. Fix a bedtime and a wake-up time. Stick to the time without disruptions and aim for seven to eight hours of sleep, every day.
  • Choose a hobby or activity of your wish and that which makes you unwind. Indulge in it, whenever you can squeeze out time for it, and make it a part of your routine, gradually. Be mindful of your involvement and your thought process concerning the way you see yourself and of your core beliefs.
  • Try initiating meditation practices and breathing exercises. Do it whenever and wherever possible, and commit to doing it regularly to see the results. 

Opt for a new therapist

The aptest predictor to see if your therapy is working is to observe if you and your therapist fit together. Your therapist must be willing to acknowledge your ideas emotions, thoughts, and fears. They should be able to give their undivided attention to your problems and to hear them out one by one, without judging them. 

One of the keys to successful therapy is a therapist who makes you feel heard and seen, without condemning your values and your true self. If your current therapist is not someone who can offer this kind of energy and commitment, it is better to lookout for a new therapist. 

While in therapy, you could look out for the following changes that could help you understand if the therapy is helping you or not:

  • Your therapist must have discussed the various treatment options available and the ones that they think would suit your needs and wants. 
  • Helped you gain insight into the specific treatment goals and a proper framework of therapy. 
  • Talked to you about medication for your mental health condition and its requirement
  • Gives you recommendations of homework assignments and other potential activities that would help you in increasing the effectiveness of the learning process in therapy. 

All of us are different and unique in our ways and are thriving to love each other and work on ourselves to be better at it. Therapy is the soul for your mental health and partaking in it requires conscious willingness, effort, and a desire to be a better human being. 

BetterHelp: A Better Alternative

Those who are seeking therapy online may also be interested in BetterHelp. BetterHelp offers plenty of formats of therapy, ranging from live chats, live audio sessions and live video sessions. In addition, unlimited messaging through texting, audio messages and even video messages are available here.

BetterHelp also offers couples therapy and therapy for teenagers in its platform. Furthermore, group sessions can also be found in this platform, covering more than twenty different topics related to mental health and mental illness. The pricing of BetterHelp is also pretty cost-effective, especially considering the fact that the platform offers financial aid to most users.


In this article, we discussed and answered the question: what to do when therapy doesn’t work?. We discussed the various ways you could try out if therapy is not working out the way you want. 

FAQs: what to do when therapy doesn’t work?

What to do if you can’t get therapy?

If you are someone who is finding it difficult to afford therapy sessions or opt for professional help, you could try the below-given solutions:

Make a quick check with your insurance company to know about the various plans and options available to you.
Opt for cheaper options such as training clinics or group counseling centers, where the cost can be split with two or three other people.
You could consider trying out the community health centers in your area where you would be able to avail of discounts or cost reduction for the services.
You could try reading books that are related to therapy or counseling which throws light on self-help and other coping strategies
Try attending support groups and clubs where you can share your experiences with people of the same wavelength and understanding capabilities
Reevaluate and reconsider your expenses and check for alternative plans or installment schemes 
Try listening to various podcasts, ted talks, or videos that give unbiased, and realistic information about therapy and ways to go about it.

How do I tell my therapist it is not working?

In therapy, an open and honest communication pattern with the therapist is necessary to help you move forward without hassles and the therapist to understand the course of growth and the nature of obstacles in the process if any. The client-therapist relationship is extremely important for your therapy to be successful.

If things are not working out with your therapist, you must let them know immediately. Tell them genuinely what is and what isn’t working for you and help them figure out the kind of changes you are looking for, in the process of therapy. Keep feedbacks and discussion sessions where you both can freely talk about the development of your therapy process and how are you liking it.  In case you are not comfortable with the therapist even after having several discussions and proper communication, then you could respectfully let them know about the same and find another therapist, suitable for your needs. 

How long does it take for therapy to start working?

The success of therapy differs from one individual to another. The number of recommended sessions vary, depending upon the given condition and the type of treatment that needs to be administered. Most of the clients claim that they feel better after about three months they undergo therapy. Those suffering from anxiety and depression find instant relief when they begin therapy and with the consistent follow-ups, in short, and longer time frames. 

Besides, you will be able to reap the benefits of therapy if you are willing to put the required amount of effort and time into the process from the start to the end. It might get messy and confusing along the way, and it is completely normal to feel overwhelmed and take breaks in between. The key is to return after those breaks and work more efficiently on yourself to smoothen the process of therapy and to realize its true value.

Is online therapy effective?

Online therapy, especially, cognitive behavioral therapy is highly effective, beneficial, acceptable, and equally good as face to face therapy for various conditions such as depression, anxiety, panic attack disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Online counseling is much convenient for those who have busy schedules and who are not comfortable speaking to therapists, face to face. It is a practical and realistic mode of therapy, just as in physical settings. 

Is therapy worth the money?

Therapy is definitely worth money, owing to the mental and emotional benefits you will able to gain through therapy. You learn more about yourself as a person and will also be able to initiate the process of unlearning undesirable and unhealthy patterns of thoughts and behaviors, during therapy. The added advantage of the therapy is the fact that you will able to increase your level of productivity and efficiency at work, thus increasing your income level and the amount of work satisfaction at the workplace. 

Is crying in therapy a breakthrough?

If you experience crying bouts and a consistent urge to cry, during your therapy sessions, you must not aim to rush through the process of therapy. The popular therapy mantra states, “if tears are flowing, something worthwhile is happening”. That being said, crying in therapy could mostly mean two things; it either indicates that there has been a meaningful and refreshing breakthrough for the client or it could be indicative of the client being exhausted and giving up on an approach that isn’t working and is emotionally taxing on them.