Therapy does work, but if you have doubts about it, you certainly have your reasons. Here are some questions you might be asking and some preliminary answers to those questions. For therapy that’s effective, it’s important to find the right therapist to help.
Therapy doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried it and I’m still struggling. Am I beyond help?
If you’ve had disappointing or unhelpful experiences in therapy, you might be saying: “I’ve been in therapy already, maybe more than once, and it didn’t help. Should I even bother to try again?” Trying, and having that help fail you, is extremely discouraging.
Yes, it is worth trying. The important thing is to know how to look for and find the right therapist who has the understanding and skills to help you. That’s hard if you’ve been hurt or misunderstood, failed by a therapist, or if therapy hasn’t helped in the past.
You’re likely convinced you’ll never find a therapist who will understand you or is worthy of your trust. No one goes into therapy trusting easily, especially if you had reasons not to trust people in childhood. It’s hard to open up to a stranger. If your therapist (s) didn’t understand that and help you, you were not with the right therapist.
That’s important. It is common to come out of a failed therapy thinking it was your fault.
And it’s worse if you had a past therapist that actually blamed you. Or said something like: “you just aren’t willing to change or open up.” That’s uncalled for, hurtful, and absolutely untrue. It’s the therapist’s responsibility to help you feel safe in therapy.
So, now, you’re even more scared. And, worse yet, left with a worry: “Maybe I’m hopeless.” You’re not. But, that’s one damaging effect of previously failed therapy.
Yes, therapy can work. But you’re probably wondering, what is effective psychotherapy?
If I look for help again – what is effective psychotherapy?
Effective psychotherapy is certainly not being left with any feeling that things are your fault, especially if therapy failed you. If there are things inside you getting in the way, that’s the therapist’s responsibility to understand, not something you’re failing to do.
Everyone has anxieties that create blocks, or they wouldn’t come to therapy in the first place. And, if you knew what those were, you’d resolve them on your own. Plus, those things that get in your way? They are there for reasons. Unconscious reasons. And, it’s a good therapist’s responsibility to figure those out with you. And, to help you to see.
Plus, having a hard time trusting, and being open isn’t unusual. Maybe you have fears from early disappointments. If so, those fears must be sensitively understood. Criticalness or impatience is never good therapy. And if you have fears of being judged or a critical voice in your own head, you need a therapist that senses it and helps you.
A good therapist compassionately understands your struggles, even with therapy itself.
Building trust is not an easy thing. An effective therapist finds new ways to understand and help you work out what hasn’t yet been sufficiently understood. It’s not up to you.
But when you’ve tried and haven’t gotten the help you need, it’s not unusual to become angry or defensive. Were you blamed for those feelings? Did you blame yourself?
Anger should be part of any effective therapy. There’s nothing wrong with expressing anger, sadness, hurt, frustration, fear, distrust, or defensiveness. More than anything, a good therapist accepts and helps you be open with, and make sense of, whatever feelings you bring. They are all understandable, even if you don’t believe that right now.
How is psychoanalytic psychotherapy or psychoanalysis different than other talk therapy?
Both psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis mean attention to the not-conscious elements of your feelings and thoughts. These kinds of psychoanalytic therapies are generally different than other talk therapies because a trained analyst, like myself, is listening for what’s below the surface and what you cannot find on your own.
But if you find judgment or lack of empathy even in psychoanalytic therapy, move on.
The important thing is for this to be a safe place and an accepting space for you to bring in whatever is on your mind. There is no agenda or expectation or homework, as there might have been in other therapies. You are not here to please me. I am here for you.
I know you’ve become convinced that therapy doesn’t work for you, but perhaps now is the time for another try. It’s not impossible to have an entirely different experience.
How will I know if you’re the right therapist for me?
You’ll know I’m the right therapist over time. Yet, in the beginning, if you feel you’re being understood in a different way, unique to you, you might feel it’s worth taking a chance to begin a new therapy with me. Trust takes time to build. You’ve been let down and I wouldn’t expect you to trust me right away. We’ll talk about the worries.
Setting aside failed therapy experiences is difficult. There are many therapists unable to understand the complex ways that symptoms are expressed. For example:
Sometimes, feelings can flood you with overwhelming intensity. Or you might hide away your feelings as if they don’t exist. And, then, there are symptoms that are stubbornly unrelenting and difficult to solve. All of these need to be understood.
If you can find the courage to try again, I’m here to talk about your history and concerns. Trust is built on feeling understood, and in the good experiences, session by session.
As we work in therapy together, you’ll come to know I’m the right therapist when you:
- Understand why you feel the way you do.
- Feel freer to express yourself openly.
- See your life and relationships changing.
- Begin to respond in new ways to old situations.
- Are less self-critical and more self-accepting.
Can you help me set goals for our therapy sessions? I need a realistic timeline for healing.
My way of working is not setting specific goals for you. Personal goals generally arise out of the work we do together, and if you decide you want to work with me, we’ll talk. A timeline for healing is difficult. I wish I could give you a prediction, but I can’t. Effective therapy needs time. Most people begin to feel better, even after a few sessions.
My suggestion is to take a deep breath, meet with me by Zoom, and see if we’re a good fit. We can discuss your concerns about timelines in our first few consultations together.
If you know you need to make changes, then it’s important to be patient with yourself, to get what you need. Each therapy or psychoanalysis unfolds in its own way and time.
I know that uncertainty makes anyone anxious. But I find that once therapy is underway and a relationship between us is developing, it’s much easier to settle in and allow the process to do its work. Please know you are free to express, to me, all of your concerns.
As we go along in our work together, talking to me about anything – including any impatience you feel – is welcome, necessary, and a key part of any successful therapy.
Can we schedule an informational session before starting psychotherapy or psychoanalysis? I have some more questions.
Yes, of course. I offer a 25-minute complimentary telephone or Zoom consultation. Please call @ (310) 273-4827 or email @ email@example.com when you’re ready.