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3 Reasons Why Therapy Isn’t Helping Your Child

Will Social Anxiety Keep Your Child From Succeeding in School?It’s difficult for parents to get their children into therapy. After all, few children volunteer to be in therapy, and are frequently delivered to therapists’ offices like indignant hostages.

After much strain and stress, you may luck out, and your child may agree to see a therapist. But what do you do if after weeks or months of therapy, you see no change in his or her behavior?

The following situations weaken the effectiveness of therapy and can even render it futile:

  1. Parenting conflicts.
    Contrasting parenting styles is the No. 1 cause of behavior problems in children and undermines the benefits of therapy. After all, a therapist gets the child one hour a week; the other 167 hours are with their parents. Married, divorced, or separated — unless both parents commit to working together and uniting for the good of their child, major progress in therapy will remain elusive. Parents in constant disagreement are demoralizing, depressing, and no match for any therapist.
  2. Substance abuse.
    The higher the instance of substance abuse, the less effective therapy is. While it’s not uncommon for teenagers to experiment with marijuana or alcohol, if your child is drinking or getting high three or four times a week or smoking alone in his bedroom, you need to see a drug counselor — not a therapist. Preventing addiction isn’t easy, but reversing it after it has already become a problem can take a lifetime.
  3. Learning issues.
    Children with undiagnosed learning problems live in a constant state of tension that eats away at their attitude, concentration, and well-being. Many behavior or mood problems result from nonverbal learning difficulties such as poor processing skills, executive functioning difficulties, or attention issues. If your child is struggling with academics, consult with a learning specialist. Bottom line: therapy will offer stress relief but it is not a replacement for dealing with learning difficulties.

What to do if therapy isn’t helping:

  • Set up a meeting with your child’s therapist.
    Schedule an appointment and express your concerns. Work with the therapist to come up with solutions. Explore other interventions. Ask the therapist to be frank and direct. You want to know if you’re doing something wrong. Don’t be passive and hope for the best. Express your frustration directly. Come up with a fresh strategy together.
  • Consider family therapy.
    Family therapy is an excellent tool for rebooting family relationships and improving communication. It can be challenging, even grueling, but family therapy also offers families a place to process difficult feelings and come up with solutions that will benefit everyone, all under the supervision of a pro.
  • Get more support.
    Don’t go it alone. Take advantage of every bit of support you can find. Get second opinions, talk to school officials, and ask your friends and family for advice. When it comes to getting to the bottom of your child’s problems, don’t be shy; the more support you have, the better.

If therapy isn’t cutting it, chances are that the true causes of your child’s problems are not being addressed. Disruptive or depressive behaviors are always symptoms of deeper issues.

Play detective. Investigate your child’s issues from all angles, and consider anything that may be causing your him or her undue stress. Chances are, with such tenacity, you’ll find the breakthrough you seek.

© 2015 Sean Grover

3 Reasons Why Therapy Isn’t Helping Your Child

Sean Grover, LCSW

Sean Grover, LCSW, author of When Kids Call the Shots, has worked in child development and adult psychotherapy for 20 years, and maintains one of the largest private group therapy practices in the U.S. He has been quoted in Newsweek, New York Magazine, NPR, and elsewhere about parent-child relationships. For more information please visit and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

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APA Reference
Grover, S. (2018). 3 Reasons Why Therapy Isn’t Helping Your Child. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 27 Jul 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.