Not making progress in therapy? Psychotherapy is a voyage that is different for everyone. One person may have an initial roadblock that, once circumvented, allows them to see immense progress quickly.
Others may not be so lucky and see no progress in therapy for weeks or months.
Therapy is filled with plateaus that you need to overcome to move to the next step in your journey. You also must deal with progression expectations vs reality.
Announcement: Progress in therapy can be rapid or slow, and your journey is unique. Roadblocks during your journey are common and must be worked through to find success. We’re going to share the common reasons for roadblocks and strategies for overcoming them throughout your journey.
Progress in Therapy: Expectations vs Reality
Going into therapy should not come with expectations because you and your condition are unique. The feelings that you encounter can be anything, such as:
You may also be dealing with self-esteem issues, eating disorders, trauma, abuse and an array of other issues that all need to be addressed along your journey.
Expectations often involve:
- Rapid changes
- Weeks to erase years of issues
Instead, the reality is that a lot of the experiences and thought patterns that you’ve developed in life have taken a lifetime to form. You may be in therapy for depression that has been a part of you for 20 years. Erasing these feelings takes time and you’ll come across roadblocks that must be navigated strategically along the way.
Remember that you’re not alone in your therapy. Around 19% of adults sought mental health treatment last year. You can make progress in therapy, but you need to put in the time and effort to make a lasting change.
Not making progress in therapy can be due to: fear or denial, the wrong “fit” of a therapist, unrealistic expectations, lack of commitment and many other factors.
How To Evaluate Progress in Therapy
Assessing progress in therapy is something that therapists and researchers have worked on for years. Adapting approaches requires an assessment of what’s working and not working for you. Therapists can help you make this evaluation, and a unique approach must be taken because you may be dealing with:
- Psychotic disorders
- Substance abuse
- Much more
Therapists are trained to use multiple tools to gauge the outcomes of therapy and the progress of patients.
You can evaluate your own progress by:
- Listing your goals
- Outlining milestones that you need to reach to hit your goals
- Analyzing which milestones have been reached and whether you’re closer to your goals than you were prior to therapy or since the last assessment
You can also identify times when a lack of progress occurs.
How to Identify a Lack of Progress
Are you reaching your therapeutic goals? If not, why have you missed these milestones? Of course, time is needed to progress in therapy, and there’s no shortcut to speed to the end of your journey.
Some of the signs that you may not be making progress in therapy are:
- You feel judged when you’re talking to your therapist
- You feel worse after attending sessions
- You begin hiding information from your therapist
You may also find yourself falling back into old habits, which is never a good thing. If you don’t notice a difference a month or two into therapy or you notice that you’re not any closer to your goals, it may be worthwhile to talk to your therapist and identify how you can progress.
Roadblocks are the cause of the lack of progress. Once you realize the types of plateaus you may hit, it will be easier to address them.
Common Reasons to Hit Therapy Roadblocks
Therapy roadblocks occur for numerous reasons, including but not limited to:
Resistance in Therapy: Fear, Denial, and Self-Sabotage
Taking the first step to enter therapy is scary, but this same fear will persist after your first session. Be honest with yourself:
- Does therapy make you fearful?
- Do you think that you really need to go to therapy, or are you trying to make someone else happy?
- Are you self-sabotaging yourself?
It takes a lot of courage to go into therapy with an open mind and not be resistant to it. If you find yourself falling into this category, reevaluate your reasons for therapy.
Lack of Rapport with the Therapist
Building a rapport with a therapist takes time, and if you have trust issues, it can be months before you feel comfortable with the person. Over time, if you still lack rapport, it may be time to switch therapists.
Inadequate Therapy Techniques or Approaches
You may not be at fault for hitting therapy roadblocks. Often, a therapist may use approaches or techniques that simply do not work well for you. Discuss your options with your therapist and see if they can make changes that address your concerns.
Life Circumstances and Stressors that Influence Therapy Progress
Life happens. You may have life stresses and circumstances that make progress in therapy much more difficult. If you don’t address these issues, it will make progress in therapy challenging.
What are your expectations? If you think that your lifetime of issues can be cured in one session, it may be time to tame your expectations. Slow and steady progress in therapy is what will drive long-lasting results.
Not Putting in the Work Outside of Therapy Sessions.
Therapy is just a short session when compared to the rest of the hours in your week. If you’re not putting the lessons that you learn in therapy into action outside of your sessions, it will take much longer to progress toward your goals.
Making Progress in Therapy Is Possible
Making progress in therapy takes time, and you can be sure that roadblocks must be overcome. Everyone hits a plateau occasionally, but you can change your approach and make these slowdowns a challenge.
You can analyze what’s working and not working, and then strategize to overcome roadblocks.
For example, you may find:
- Fear is holding you back from progress and you need to “let go” to progress further.
- Stress is causing you to put less time into therapy than necessary, so you need to address it accordingly.
- Lack of effort outside of therapy. In this case, you can create a schedule that allows you to spend time on therapy outside of your set sessions with a therapist.
If you feel like you’re not making progress in therapy, you can look within and address issues that you know exist and haven’t been addressed. With time and the help of a therapist, you can and will learn how to navigate plateaus and inch closer to the end of your journey.