Those considering starting a therapeutic journey often wonder why therapy doesn’t work for everyone. It’s true that the success of sessions depends on many complex factors. However, let us preface by saying that counseling is more often than not among the most triumphant ways to better one’s mental health. With that in mind, there are factors that indicate you should look elsewhere for help. So here are the most common reasons people aren’t pleased with the results.
Why Therapy Doesn’t Work for Everyone
Many who are considering starting their therapeutic journey wonder: is therapy always effective? This is a common question to ask since going to a session for the first time can be difficult. It is uncomfortable and uneasy to open up to someone you’ve just met, and that is why most of us have reservations about our first session. However, there is no better and more successful way to deal with mental health issues than with a licensed professional. And yes, there are cases when psychotherapy proves not to be as effective, but most commonly it is because something is off, and not because the person is immune to the process.
The first step is to do research and find the right professional for yourself
#1 You Don’t Actually Want to Go to Women’s Counseling
Why are some people so resistant to therapy, you might ask. Well, often it’s because they don’t actually want to be there. Since this is often understood to be one of the most successful ways of bettering mental health if you struggle with it a lot or if you’re going through a difficult patch, it’s not uncommon for people’s loved ones to convince or even force them to book their first appointment. And while your loved ones may have the best intentions, such actions can be counterproductive. You can’t expect psychotherapy to be effective if the only thing you are thinking about during the session is when it will end. Contrary to popular belief, psychotherapy is a two-way street that requires both involved parties to put in the effort – a lot of it. So if your reason to attend is to get a parent or a partner off your back, or you don’t feel convinced or motivated to go to sessions, don’t expect magic to happen on its own.
Feeling pressured into seeing therapists is one of the worst enemies of progress
#2 The Therapist’s Approach Isn’t Right for the Client
Psychology as a branch of science offers multiple theories related to psychotherapy. These schools of thought are like signposts that guide the approach a counselor will have with their clients. Each of these general theories is different from the rest, yet valid in its own right. However, it is possible for a client to need an approach that their therapist can’t provide. There are five main broad categories of psychotherapy:
Psychoanalysis – The approach conceived by Sigmund Freud has been significantly extended and improved upon. However, the basic principle remains: the goal is to discover underlying meanings of the subconscious mind. So the counselor will most often ask the client about their family, background, childhood, and relationships.
Behavioral psychotherapy – If you want to change something specific in your behavior, like the way you deal with stress or the anxiety you feel in relationships, for example, this category will probably help the most. While it has multiple subcategories, the approach mainly focuses on discerning between normal and abnormal behaviors and teaching the person to change how they behave and, subsequently, how they think.
Cognitive psychotherapy – The focus of this method is the dysfunctional thought process that is believed to influence how you feel and act. It is another form of psychotherapy that aims to fix a present problem, rather than focus on the past experiences of an individual.
Humanistic psychotherapy – Humanists believe every person has a true self they need to reach in order to live the most fulfilling lives. This approach doesn’t focus on dysfunctionality but rather on the free will and self-actualization of an individual. The two most commonly practiced techniques are gestalt and client-centered psychotherapy.
Integrative or holistic approach – Most therapists and psychologists actually don’t follow a single approach but integrate multiple techniques and schools of thought to be able to help their clients best.
The Counselor for Women Might Not Have Enough Training to Provide Adequate Treatment
People hear of others who gave up on seeing therapists and wonder: But how can that be – does therapy not work for everyone? To someone who doesn’t know much about this topic, it may seem that, if a person gave up on going to sessions, that must mean that therapists, in general, are useless. However, as I have already mentioned, there are so many approaches that, what people actually mean when they say a therapist is not good enough is that the approach of the said counselor isn’t right for them.
For example, if you are someone who has problems with stage fright and work stress, psychoanalysis likely won’t be a good fit. However, behavioral treatment will likely help. So what do you do when a therapist doesn’t work for you? Well, I recommend that, before giving up on psychotherapy altogether, you consider going to a different therapist who practices a more suitable approach.
Finding a counselor whose approach fits you is often a matter of trial and error
#3 You Don’t Feel Free and Safe Talking to Your Therapist Because You Don’t Share Basic Core Beliefs
Sometimes, it’s not the approach that doesn’t fit, but the personality or the belief system of the two people working together. A therapist is, after all, a person just like any other. And whenever you are working with someone, whether it’s a doctor, a therapist, or even a social worker, even if they are the most objective and renowned professional in their field, they won’t be able to escape their own identity – and neither will you as their client. So, for example, if you are a feminist searching for ”women’s therapy near me”, you might be better off choosing a female counselor, rather than a male one.
Our Basic Identities Shape Who We Are, So Decide on a Therapist Who Shares a Similar Background
Additionally, as a woman of color who has been dealing with racism, misogyny, and intersectional discrimination their entire life, you might rightfully expect a female POC counselor to intuitively understand where you are coming from much better than a white male one, even if the latter is a great professional in their own right. The thing is that the identity and experiences we have of the world shape our basic beliefs and understanding of other people. So if you want to feel more comfortable during your appointments, search for someone whose identity politics correspond to yours, or at least stay away from counselors whose core values are ultimately opposite to yours.
There is a reason a girl would research ”counseling for women near me” when starting their journey. That is because if you are a woman of color experiencing depression, your experience of this mental illness won’t be the same as that of people of other identities. And that is completely valid and fair since we are all individual beings with different lives, for whom different types of self-care and therapeutic practices are effective. If even something seemingly minor, such as the way social media impacts us, is different for all of us, there is little chance we would all benefit from the same line of therapeutic practices.
Successful Therapy Requires a Case-by-Case Approach
When it comes to therapists, since they are licensed professionals who are educated to provide you with proper treatment, it is expected that they will have an individual approach to every client. A good therapist should be able to tailor their methods to each case. That is difficult since it depends on so many factors, and the personality of the professional is an unavoidable one. So, for some people, it takes a few tries to find someone who they feel comfortable talking to, but the person who knows how to adjust to your needs is definitely out there – so don’t give up after a first failed attempt.
It takes time to find someone who will fit you - and that's okay
#4 You Have Unrealistic Expectation of Therapy for Women of Color
Having unrealistic expectations can be detrimental to your progress as well, so it’s always a good idea to start by vocalizing your goals. Psychotherapy is a process with the goal of providing a person with adequate treatment, as well as providing a space for personal growth. However, there are many things psychotherapy is not, and here are some of them:
It is NOT a quick and easy fix for a current problem or a way to instantly calm yourself down,
It isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of solution,
It is not something you can leave at the therapist’s office – it requires constant effort in your everyday life,
A therapist isn’t a perfect deity that doesn’t make mistakes,
A therapist isn’t going to magically fix your issues without any effort on your part,
The same professional won’t have the exact same approach and relationship with each client.
Don’t Think That You Won’t Have to Do Emotional Work Outside of Your Sessions
As a woman of color in the workforce, you are probably sick of constant labor in the private and public spheres of life. However, if you want to improve your mental health, it’s not enough to just take in a few self-care tips and talk to a professional for an hour every week. The point of psychotherapy is to get you processing and getting over certain events and feelings. And for that to happen, you need to be ready to put in emotional labor after the session too – otherwise, it won’t be as effective.
True progress for problems with anxiety and depression happens both inside and outside of the therapist's office
#5 You Seek Help Only After a Life Crisis Has Already Begun
In today’s world, almost everyone lives in a perpetual state of an overwhelming mental health crisis. However, a high percentage of people don’t do anything about it until they reach a tipping point or experience a traumatic event. And by then, they are in such bad shape that working on themselves will require much more effort – and time as well.
You might expect your counselor for women to make progress in only three months – and if you have a habit of constantly working on your mental health, that will be feasible. However, after a traumatic experience, and especially if the idea of working on your mental wellness is new to you, you will probably need more time to unpack everything and might get impatient thinking that nothing is changing. Such a misconception can easily push a client to give up on the process altogether.
Looking for Help in a Crisis Is a Must, But Treating Things Like Depression and Anxiety Takes Longer
I’m not saying you shouldn’t start psychotherapy in trying times – what I want to say is that it might be much more worthwhile to start looking into the process before issues pile up, especially if you struggle with mental health generally. If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression or having panic attacks, I suggest you consider scheduling a therapy session as soon as possible – don’t wait for a trigger to send you over the edge. If you don’t feel comfortable going to individual sessions, I recommend checking out Women of Color workshops. Either way, it is important to start the process of bettering yourself as soon as possible, because that is the only way you can be truly content and happy.
WOC Reflections features weekly interviews and wellness tips delivered to your inbox.