9 Reasons Why Therapy Didn’t Work for You in the Past

You recognize that you’re struggling with your mental health, and maybe you feel ambivalent about seeking treatment.

Many clients benefit from therapy. But what if you met with someone in the past, and you just weren’t all that impressed? Was it them? Was it you? Was it something else altogether?

Bad experiences in therapy do happen. Maybe you felt dismissed by a certain mental health professional. Maybe you just felt like you were wasting your time in therapy sessions. Regardless, these negative moments can make it hard to want to reach out for support again.

Here are some considerations:

You Couldn’t Trust Your Therapist

Therapy works when you can be honest and forthcoming with your feelings.

Like any relationship, trust is essential within the therapeutic relationship. Of course, it often takes time to build this trust, especially if you have mental health problems related to trauma or betrayal. It’s normal to feel nervous disclosing intimate details about your life to a stranger.

But a good therapist remains patient and accepting of where you are in your journey. You were in the wrong therapy if they shamed you for feeling scared or resistant to trust them.

You Didn’t Have a Solid Client-Therapist Relationship

There is significant research showing that the client-therapist relationship is one of the most crucial parts of the therapeutic process. In other words, it isn’t just the set of interventions your therapist uses in session. It’s how you two connect and talk to each other. It’s also how you feel supported and cared for.

You Didn’t Feel Like They Understood You

No therapist is perfect, but a good therapist aims to be patient and accepting of where you are in your journey. This is also known as “meeting the client where they’re at.” It’s the therapist’s job to maintain a comforting, inviting space where you can take baby steps in opening up about your feelings, mental illness, or experiences.

However, you may have felt misunderstood if they:

  • seemed judgmental or wanted to instill certain beliefs onto you
  • dismissed or invalidated your feelings
  • jumped to conclusions about your behavior
  • lacked cultural sensitivity
  • moved quickly in trying to resolve your problems without really getting to know you
  • gave you a diagnosis without assessing your symptoms thoroughly

You Weren’t Receiving the Right Therapeutic Approach

Your sessions should feel supportive and thought-provoking. Not every moment will be heavy, but a professional therapist aims to understand your struggles and give you new ways to perceive or cope with your distress.

The right therapeutic approach can be subjective, but you’ll know therapy is working when you:

  • feel appropriately challenged by your therapist
  • leave sessions feeling motivated to work on yourself
  • have insight into your behaviors or personality
  • recognize how your triggers impact your functioning
  • feel like you’re learning new things every time you have a session
  • have a better understanding of how to cope with a specific mental disorder

You Weren’t Ready for Change

People enter therapy for many reasons- they want help for severe depression, they need coping skills for anxiety, they think they have a personality disorder, they have a relationship problem they can’t seem to fix.

The common denominator tends to be a desire for change. At some point, you realize you aren’t living authentically, and you want more for your life.

But therapy is hard work, and we struggle with change. You may not have been ready to put new skills into practice.

Additionally, you may have entered treatment with unrealistic expectations. This isn’t necessarily your fault. There are many misconceptions about therapy and what it will and won’t entail. In reality, treatment can be messy, and symptoms often ebb and flow.

You Struggle With Patterns of Self-Sabotage

It’s possible to fear success, and most people struggle with some form of self-sabotage when it comes to their mental health. This happens because we do what feels familiar to us. You may feel more anxious when things go well than when they’re chaotic.

Some self-sabotage may be part of the human condition. But if you’re struggling with constantly getting in your own way, you need a therapist who can process this pattern and help you better intervene with yourself.

Your History of Trauma Made Therapy Feel Unsafe

Trauma fundamentally changes the brain. It can cause your fight, flight, and freeze response system to become hyperactivated. When that happens, you may detect danger even if it isn’t real. As a result, you may experience heightened anxiety in therapy and resist efforts for support or connection.

If you have personal experience with trauma, it’s important to work with a trauma-informed therapist. While other forms of treatment can still be beneficial, you need someone who thoroughly understands the impact of trauma on mental health.

Your Low Self-Esteem Made You Believe You Didn’t Deserve Change

Low self-esteem can make you believe that you don’t deserve change. If low self-esteem coincides with mental health conditions like depression, personality disorders, or anxiety, you may be incredibly familiar with feeling bad about yourself. Any other state may seem foreign or even unsafe.

It’s important for a therapist to recognize low self-esteem barriers. They may need to provide additional resources or support to improve this issue.

You Had Unrealistic Expectations

It’s normal to want to feel better. But some clients associate an effective therapist with faster progress. That’s not the case. When talking about realistic goals in therapy, it’s important to be mindful that growth takes time, and it’s normal to experience setbacks along the way.

Keep in mind that good therapists help clients create appropriate treatment goals and help manage expectations throughout the process.

Is It Worth Starting Over With a New Therapist?

It’s normal to feel apprehensive about therapy if you haven’t had much therapeutic success in the past. Nobody wants to waste their time or money!

If you believe therapy doesn’t work, we invite you to challenge that belief. Most clients find that it just takes one therapist (or even one influential session) to reevaluate their opinion.

The reality is that psychotherapy is similar to any other relationship. Finding the right match sometimes takes time, and not every therapist will have the right style or approach for your needs. But if you’re ready to meet with a new therapist, we would be honored to get to know you.

Contact us today to get started.

Willow Counseling, PLLC – Nashville, TN

Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.


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