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“Therapy did not work for me”…this might be why

Why therapy may not have worked for you?

According to a recent study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, over 40% of Coloradoans report symptoms of anxiety or major depressive disorder. These people, likely our friends and neighbors, may need help to cope and therapy is likely a first step to managing depression and anxiety.

So what is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy has many different approaches including cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal and other types of talk therapy that help people identify their patterns of behavior or thinking that may be causing them stress and anxiety. Part of psychotherapy is identifying beliefs that may be self-limiting and the other part is about learning new skills to cope. Psychotherapy is different than psychiatry, which deals with medical issues that result in poor mental health. However, more often than not, these two mental health providers work together to help individuals gain control over their life.
Common myths about psychotherapy abound, mostly because it can be anxiety-producing to be vulnerable in front of a stranger. However, when done by highly trained professionals with expertise in mental health assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and behavior change can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, and ultimately result in people living their best lives.
Axis Integrated Mental Health of Denver interviewed therapist Jasmyne Kettwick from Relate Family Counseling to identify why psychotherapy may not have worked in the past.

Here are the most common reasons therapy does not work for people:

Wrong kind of therapist
The brain of a 14-year-old is different than the brain of an adult. It’s important that a therapist is trained to communicate with the person they are treating depending on the problem that the individual is trying to solve. For instance, a trauma-informed therapist is going to be different than a therapist that deals with depression and anxiety.
Another issue that can occur is that the therapist and the patient aren’t a good fit. Some adolescents, for instance, may work better with younger therapists as they may feel that an older therapist can’t really understand them.

It takes more effort than the client is ready for

Much like exercise, the amount of work you put into this can determine your results. But just like exercise, it may take time to build up the strength to confront the true root-cause of a client’s issue. In the same way it’s not right to expect to be able to run a marathon without months of training, going to therapy for a few weeks may not be enough to build the necessary emotional skills. It’s not uncommon for individuals to need to take a pause from therapy for a while and try it again later when they have the time and perhaps life experience to handle the process.

Wrong kind of treatment

For some individuals, especially those who have a biological component to their depression or anxiety, medications may be required to reduce suffering so that the individual can get into the proper headspace to benefit from talk therapy. In this case, a strong relationship with a psychiatrist is important so that an individual can have the support of a team rather than working with individual providers in isolation.

The therapist is the trigger

Commonly referred to as transference or counter-transference, some individuals are reminded of previous traumatic experiences by their therapist. For instance, if the trauma was caused by an abusive parent of a particular gender and the therapist is of the same gender, it can be difficult to be vulnerable with the a therapist. Conversely, this could also work in the positive in that an individual might make progress towards understanding that not everyone with the same characteristics is dangerous.
Seeking therapy is a deeply personal issue. However, with so many people suffering from personal struggles and mental health issues, it should be encouraging to know that you’re not alone. If you feel this treatment would benefit you, there are resources available in Colorado to assist you. But if you’re not ready, find a friend and open up. It may allow others to do the same and enable life-changing conversations for the better.

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