Below are some thoughts shared by members of the community on how long to stick with a therapist if you’re not sure it’s working; the value and importance of therapy, and questions to ask yourself if you’re unsure.
“Therapy changed my life. There is nothing greater than being able to understand yourself, your thoughts, actions because of past experiences. I think you can know if a therapist is good after the first 2-3 sessions. Definitely make it clear why you're there and what you want to get from it.”
“Therapy is great! I feel like everyone would benefit from it in some way, no matter what they have or haven’t gone through. You know your therapist is the right fit when you truly feel they can help you and you are comfortable enough to open up. This doesn’t always happen right away, many say to give the therapist 6 sessions to make a decision on whether or not to stay with them. I have given therapists longer than I should have and I have also given a therapists as little as 3 sessions before I made the decision not to see them anymore. Trust your gut but also go in with an open mind!”
We recommend taking a few sessions at least to get comfortable with your therapist. If you’re new to therapy, chances are you’ll find it uncomfortable at first, no matter who your therapist is. Some people find it hard to open up to a stranger, especially if they don’t often share their emotions with other people in general. After a few sessions you’ll hopefully get acquainted with what’s expected of you in therapy, and from then you’ll be able to work out if you really can work with your therapist.
“Therapy has helped me through depression and anxiety where medication alone couldn't have. My therapist (or psychologist rather) used cognitive behavioural therapy with me, basically re-teaching me how to think. … Good therapists are people you get along with and who listen to you. They don't assume a position of authority when you say they're wrong about something.”
While medication has its place in helping people with mental health issues cope with their day-to-day lives, research has shown that side-effects and withdrawal symptoms for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications can be serious and have a significant negative effect on aspects of physical and mental health. Where possible, people should be encouraged to start with talking therapy and then look into medication if it remains necessary.
“Therapy has helped me in my (complex) trauma recovery more than I could’ve imagined, so I think it’s a really great thing for self-care and life improvement and depending on your problems it’s very important to not wait if you feel you need support. It’s hard getting those first appointments so you have to take initiative early. […]
I don’t know how to say it’s “right” but it’s all about rapport and how comfortable you feel, which is the biggest predictor of good outcomes. If you feel you can grow to trust them at the first few meetings, that’s a good sign.
Good therapy isn’t supposed to make you “feel good” though, it’s more like your therapist is a personal trainer for your emotions and you’ll be working out a lot. With the right person, you’ll be challenged and experience a lot of growth. You’ll get stronger and maybe even grow closer with your loved ones too. I think it’s best to go during a time you feel you’re ready for it and motivated.”
It’s important to remember that therapy can be hard work. A therapist’s job is not to fix or cure you, but to give you the space and the tools to help you to work on yourself in whatever form that takes. Arguably one of the most important elements for successful therapy is what’s known in the profession as the ‘therapeutic alliance’, the theory being that it is the relationship itself, between you and your therapist, that is the catalyst for change.
“Every single person needs therapy, and those who are fortunate enough to have the resources to pursue it would do well to prioritize it. As far as fit ... that's tough. I'd say ask yourself a few questions. Do you feel safe with them and in their office? Do you feel accepted? Do you feel judged? Do you feel like you can speak your absolute, unfiltered truth without fear of offending/hurting your therapist? Do you feel like you can tell your therapist if you're uncomfortable? Do you feel like your goals and needs are the priority? Are they giving you useful tools to apply outside of sessions? This is a big one: do they remember the things you tell them and refer back to them when relevant? Part of a therapist's job is recognizing patterns in your life that you're maybe too close to notice.”
Some great advice from real people who have experienced and seen the value of therapy. It’s important to remember that if you don’t click with your first therapist, keep trying. Once you find the right therapist it really can change your life. It matters that you have the opportunity to heal, to realise your full potential, or to grow your resilience and skills to navigate life.