When therapy is not helping your depression?

In this article we will discuss some of the reasons why therapy is not helping you deal with depression. 

We will also take a look at some of the steps you can take when you find yourself noticing that therapy is not working. 

What to do when therapy is not helping you cope with depression?

A few things you can do or steps you can take when therapy is not helpling includes:

  • Address the issue with your therapist
  • Talk to your doctor
  • Tailor strategies
  • Do your homework
  • Edate yourself
  • Try a new therapist
  • Try other forms of therapy

However, the first thing you can do for yourself if you finds that therapist is not working as highlighted by Psychology today is that, 

“…If therapy isn’t working, the first person you should talk to is your therapist. She may opt to change her approach to treatment, pursue more “homework” options for you, or even refer you to another therapist.”

Reasons why therapy might not be working

If you have been wondering if therapy might not be helping you with your depression, you are not alone. Many people when they start therapy often come across this issue at some point. 

Let us look at some of the possible reasons why therapy is not working for you:

You’re not sticking to your treatment plan

Yes, it could simply be because you are not doing your part. Your therapist might be doing everything they can- from taking feedback and changing plans but they are not miracle performers. 

Therapy is a collaboration between therapist and client- if you are not pulling your weight, progress can stall because your therapist cannot make you change, you have to choose to change.

If your therapist gives you homework assignments, suggests changes you can make, or encourages you to try out some new behaviors and you don’t follow through, the benefits of therapy will be extremely limited

You’re using substances

While you might think that a glass of wine on occasions is harmless, alcohol is a depressant and it is advisable that you avoid it when trying to treat your depression. You may be drinking or using to self-medicate, which significantly interferes with any type of treatment for depression.

Frequent, regular, or periodic heavy use can exacerbate your depression and make it difficult to get better. You might not ever mention to your therapist that you are using and that can get in the way of your treatment. 

Too much stress 

If you’re under a lot of stress and / or are unable to manage stress adequately, your depression treatment is not going to work out.

While some stress is a natural and normal part of life, too much is destructive. It is important that you address these issues with your therapist to find ways to deal with it. 

You can learn ways to help you manage stress adequately however, if you do not make necessary changes, these strategies will not help and only cause depression symptoms to aggravate. 

Physical health issues

It could be possible that you have not addressed physical and neurobiological factors that are causing depression.  Various medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, can trigger or exacerbate symptoms of depression. 

You may have an underlying, undiagnosed medical condition that’s keeping you from getting better or even causing your depression. 

Poor sleep hygiene

Troubles falling asleep and staying asleep are common symptoms of depression. However, those can be improved when properly addressed. 

Even if you are in therapy and still not making efforts to improve your sleep habits, progress can be difficult to achieve.

You have unrealistic expectations. 

Another reason why you feel like therapy is not helping is because of your achievements. If you expect immediate miracles from therapy, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. 

Therapy is a process and patience is essential if you want to see real, lasting, results. You may not click with your first therapist or you might find it hard to make changes that are needed which can get in the way of potential progress. . 

Lack a good support system. 

We all need positive human interaction, and we all need support from others especially when we have a mental health condition. 

If you have depression and your relationships are toxic and unsupportive, it can cause you to struggle more as you make efforts to survive in spite of your depression. 

Lack of support can cause you to feel isolated and lonely, even causing negative thoughts that make depression worse.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Steps you can take 

Now that you have taken the time to understand what could be going wrong, let us look at some of the steps you can take to help yourself.

Address the issue with your therapist

If therapy isn’t working, the first person you should talk to is your therapist. You and your therapist can explore what other strategies can help you. 

You and your therapist can also address issues that you find difficult when it comes to some of the plans you might have made.

You can also take time to discuss why it is taking so long, or what you can do to help yourself. You can also discuss what other changes you can try attempting and also the possibility of meeting with a doctor to discuss medication.

Talk to Your Doctor

Research suggests that, for many mental health conditions, combining therapy with medication is the single most effective way to see results. 

If therapy isn’t working, it’s time to consider taking medication. If you have already been taking medication it could be time to discuss a different medication or different dosage. 

Meeting with a physician or a psychiatrist is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Not just to discuss medication but also to address health issues that are interfering with your progress such as chronic pain. 

Tailor strategies

Therapy is just one step in your treatment journey, not the whole journey. The whole journey includes the process of implementing the changes that are discussed in therapy to your life outside of therapy. 

A good therapist can also recommend changes you can make that might improve your prognosis. Every person is different, and every mental health condition demands slightly different treatment. 

Taking the time to consider the fact that every person is different, talking to your therapist to tailor these lifestyle change strategies to be more up your speed can be helpful.

For example- if your therapist recommends that you try cleaning your room and the thought of it seems impossible, you and your therapist can work together to break down the task to something more realistic and achievable for you- like starting with making your bed everyday for a few days followed by putting away laundry etc.

Do Your Homework

Therapy isn’t magic and there’s nothing your therapist can say that will immediately make your life better. 

Instead, therapy is hard work. By following your therapist’s assignments, you enable yourself to adopt new coping mechanisms and move beyond the struggles of the past.

This homework does not have to be a specific task rather it’s simply a matter of doing the things your therapist suggests with an open mind. 

Educate yourself 

Read more about your mental health and educate yourself about your own emotions- there could be some issues that are being overlooked in therapy. 

Taking the time to read up on it or educate yourself about your own depression can help you find the right tools to deal with the disorder and can also help you learn new strategies to cope.

Try a New Therapist

The single best predictor of whether therapy will work is whether you and your therapist are a good fit. 

It is time for you to reflect on whether your therapist is the right fit for you and is able to understand what you need and want. 

It is also important to understand whether your therapist is capable enough to deal with your case. If you find that your therapist is not doing their job or you feel like they are ethically inadequate, it is time to consider seeking other professionals out. 

Try other forms of therapy

Talk therapy is not the only kind of therapy you can consider to help you deal with emotions. There are other forms of therapy that you can try out such as dance therapy, art therapy,group therapy etc.

Take the time to educate yourself about other forms and even consult your therapist about trying them out. You can seek out these forms of therapy online or through community centers. 


In this article we have discussed some of the things you can do if you feel like your therapy is not helping treat and manage your depression. We have also discussed some of the reasons why you might be feeling stuck when it comes to your therapeutic progress.




What we recommend for Depression

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

Frequently asked questions related to “When therapy is not helping: Depression”

Why do clients stop coming to therapy?

The most common reasons why people stop coming to therapies i because they are disappointed by the lack of immediate results. 

Patients come in with unrealistic assumptions about therapy, both in terms of the roles of the therapist and the patient, the degree of commitment that’s required. 

When they do not see immediate results or realise that therapy is not just about medication and talking but rather digging deep and working hard to put work into healing, they give up. 

Do therapists get frustrated with clients?

All therapists and counselors experience discomfort with and dislike of a client at some point in their careers. It is a professional issue that they must address with their own supervisors and therapists.

This frustration must not affect the client and if it does, it is ethically wrong and unhealthy for both client and therapist. 

Do therapists give up on clients?

Sometimes therapists terminate with their patients when they find that they are unable to help a client. 

They have the right to stop seeing a client if they deem themselves not the right fit for the client much like the rights of the client who are allowed to terminate with their therapists. 

However, termination must be ethically done and must provide the client with other options and support to get the help they need elsewhere. 

Can therapy make things worse?

It is actually normal to feel bad or worse after therapy, especially during the beginning of your work with a therapist. 

It can be a sign of progress as you begin to become more vulnerable and address the issues that you might have held onto for a long time. 

As your journey progresses, you tend to feel better as you get to know yourself more and exert control over your emotions, thoughts and feelings. 

Can therapy make you more anxious?

Opening up about your issues to someone else can be stressful and anxiety provoking especially when your therapist is someone who is incapable of handling your case. 

However, if they are capable and are ethical in their practice, this anxiety that you feel will eventually become stable as you learn strategies to handle and cope with the help of your therapist.