Do I Need a New Therapist?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. Hi, I’m really troubled about therapy. I’ve been in therapy with the same therapist now for three years. In all that time, I haven’t seen a single change or improvement in my life as a result. In fact, I’m a lot worse than when I started. My therapist is great and understands me really well, and I’m not expecting some kind of miracle or cure, but I think three years is too long to go without some kind of improvement. I also have major PTSD symptoms and none of those have improved any. The type that interfere with daily and biological functioning. I don’t feel like I’m getting the help I need. I question it because I was in therapy briefly with another therapist for some months prior to my current therapist(had to stop because he was a university psychologist and I no longer attended school). In that short time I saw a minor improvement or two in a few things.

Another reason I question it is because I’m also seeing a couples therapist with my boyfriend. I’ve seen improvements from that in the six months or so we’ve been seeing him. This is not merely my perception because when I finally mentioned to my boyfriend recently that I didn’t feel like going to my therapy anymore, it’s been three years and I don’t have anything to show for it, he agreed. He said he didn’t want to say anything, but he hasn’t seen a single change or improvement in me in all that time. He also agreed I’m much worse. Any improvements he too attributed to our couples therapy work.

I realize some people are in therapy for years and years. With all of my issues and problems, I’m not expecting it to take anything less than that. However, isn’t three years too long not to see some sort of improvement? I’ve also asked for help with certain things, like my inability to work, my PTSD symptoms, and haven’t gotten it. I’m really confused and beginning to question what I’m spending thousands of dollars (that I don’t have) a year for if I’m not getting anything from it? I don’t consider it a personality conflict between me and my therapist because we get along well. I’ve been so upset about it I’ve almost considered trying to find another therapist just to ask about this, but can’t really afford to and don’t really want to deal with that if it’s not necessary. I’m just not sure where to turn. (I did mention my doubts to my therapist in case you’re wondering. All he asked was “How do you think you’d be if you hadn’t been coming here?”) Another item to note, I recently called him one day because I was very suicidal and at a physical location to attempt it and he didn’t call me back. That too is making me wonder about therapy.

A There is a problem with therapy when you have attended for three years and you have felt no improvement. It’s good that you like your therapist but when he or she is not helping you to improve your life you need a change.

You have improved with the help of the couples therapist and this is good. This is how therapy is supposed to work. It is reasonable to expect slow, steady improvement. It may not be noticeable after each therapy session but it will over the months. If you are not getting this from your individual therapist then you should consider finding more effective help.

You said that you understand that it can take years for one to truly get better in therapy and this is true. Depending on the nature of the problem, an individual could be in therapy for years and maybe even for the rest of his or her life. But it should not take years for you to feel better from therapy. If you have yet to feel an improvement then you are not getting good therapy. Seems like it’s time for a new therapist.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Apr 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Do I Need a New Therapist?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/04/21/do-i-need-a-new-therapist/

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