It’s Not Me, It’s You.
Maybe It’s Time to Break up with Your Therapist
It’s not an uncommon situation: You’ve been in therapy for what seems like a very long time, going around and around the same issues with no feeling of momentum and no end in sight. It’s unfortunate, but many people wind up in therapy relationships that have this kind of inertia. It could be that the problem was solved long ago, and no one realized it was time to end therapy work. It could be that the kind of therapy you’ve been receiving isn’t the right one for your needs. It could be you’ve been working with someone who’s just not a very good therapist. Whatever the reason, if you’ve arrived at this point, it may be up to you to call it and move on.
Though not common knowledge, there are many kinds of therapy that are practiced today, and most of them are designed to treat a limited number of concerns. You may have found a therapist who was able to help a friend but has not been able to help you, not because there is something wrong with you, but there is something wrong with the therapy. You don’t go to an orthodontist to treat your acne, so it doesn’t make sense to go to a psychoanalyst to help you reduce anxiety. There has been a great deal of scientific research into what sorts of treatments are best suited to different kinds of problems. We know what works. Unfortunately, the average person doesn’t know or have access to this information, so they end up seeing their orthodontist (so to speak) for years, their acne never improving.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, the kind of therapy we use in our practice, is a brief treatment that works best with people who want to make specific changes in their lives. These can include reducing anxiety and panic, ending OCD, curing depression, improving social skills, boosting assertiveness and relationship skills, reducing addictive behaviors, and increasing or decreasing other sorts of behaviors. CBT focuses on the here-and-now, and is not surprisingly, very good for treating here-and-now problems. The research is clear: if you’re in therapy to make changes, CBT is the treatment of choice. For example, a landmark study conducted in 2000 showed that people in cognitive-behavioral therapy for general anxiety improved at more than double the rate of people in traditional talk-therapy.
Let’s be real: Not all therapists are created equal. If you’ve had several therapists over the course of your life, you know that each therapist brings their own strengths to the therapy session. Some therapists are truly gifted in what they do, and others tend to struggle much of the time. Alas, this is something that’s hard to know until you’ve worked with a therapist for a while. If you have a therapist who fumbles around in session or you don’t have a lot of confidence in… It’s unlikely that person can do much to help you achieve your goals.
Other indicators of therapist strength and weakness are easier to suss out. One quick and dirty way of sizing up a therapist’s ability is to dig into their background to learn about their training. Did they attend a doctoral graduate school program that lasted six years, or a master’s program that lasted two? Does your therapist have specialized certification and training in what you want help with, or do they list every kind of therapy technique and problem on their website? Are they providing a therapy that is evidence-based for your particular issue, or do they do… something else? Each of these factors are worth considering when choosing a therapist, and they are worthy of discussion with your therapist if you have a concern.
Breaking up Isn’t Hard to Do
If you feel you may be with the wrong therapist for you, there are a number of ways of remedying the problem. It’s usually a good idea to first discuss your concern with your therapist. If your therapist is open to the discussion, they may be able to address your needs better than you assumed. Of course, there are therapists who are unable to hear feedback without taking it personally and respond poorly by dismissing your concerns, blaming you for lack of progress, or trying to convince you to stick with them anyway. If this is their reaction, unfortunate as it is, it makes your decision a little easier.
A second option is to shop around first to determine whether there is a therapist better aligned with your needs. Sometimes people see as many as three therapists for an initial visit, kind of like a second, third, and fourth opinion, getting fresh perspectives on an issue that has felt stagnant. You may find that everyone is in agreement, and that the current course with your present is what is best for you. More likely though, it may be easier to explore with a different therapist what hasn’t been working, and as a result, find new solutions you hadn’t considered.
If you’ve read until this point, you’re probably looking for some kind of a change. We are a therapy practice that specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for specific problems, such as anxiety, depression, and relationship issues. If you want to try something new, click here to learn more about how we might be able to help you find a new direction.