Establish Expectations That It’s Ok If Therapy Doesn’t Work Right Away

When clients seek support for their mental health it’s important for the therapist to establish realistic expectations. Immediate relief is often expected but therapy doesn’t work that way. It’s important to emphasize that it’s ok if therapy doesn’t work right away.

It’s OK If Therapy Doesn’t Work on the First Try

Many people who suffer with a form of mental illness will try coping for many years before ever seeking treatment. And when they do seek treatment it is not uncommon to encounter an unsuccessful first attempt. Patients may already feel broken or unfixable and this can be very disconcerting for those who may have been reluctant to ever seek treatment in the first place. The most important thing for them to understand in these circumstances is that it’s normal and Ok if therapy doesn’t work on the first try.

It can be devastating when therapy doesn’t work like you hoped, on the first try.

Therapy Is Specific and It’s Okay If The First Approach Doesn’t Work

No two people are alike in mental challenges or therapy solutions. There are a number of treatments and while one may work for one person, it may not be as successful with the next. This doesn’t mean we give up trying to find a solution. If you had heart disease or diabetes and the first medication that was prescribed didn’t work, you wouldn’t stop there. But rather continue on the healing journey to find a medication and treatment plan that works best for your unique needs. This is where your doctor and therapist can work with you to find a solution. This process takes time.

Stay Informed on the Next Steps When Therapy Doesn’t Work

One way you, as the client, can gain a sense of control in what-can-feel like an uncontrollable process is by keeping them informed of the next steps when a treatment protocol isn’t working. There are some helpful questions that you can ask your therapist to stay abreast of their healing journey. These questions can include:

How long should it take before I see results of this treatment plan?

Is there anything I can do on my end to make this treatment work efficiently?

If I don’t like how this protocol makes me feel can I change my treatment plan?

Is there any homework for me to work on between my appointments?

Lifestyle Changes to Make When Therapy Doesn’t Work

No matter what kind of mental health challenges you are struggling with, it’s always beneficial for them to take personal responsibility for their healing journey by adding habits and strategic activities to their lifestyle. The easiest way to make a new activity a habit is to schedule it just like any other important task in your day. These are some recommended activities to incorporate as daily activities:

Establish a healthy balanced diet and eat meals at regular intervals through the day

Establish a regular bed and waking time getting a minimum of 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night

Take steps to establish a healthy living environment by removing yourself from toxic relationships.

Establish a regular exercise regime. 

Learn how to meditate. Meditation is a powerful tool to slow down the brain waves and create a sense of relaxation. It doesn’t have to be complicated and there are plenty of free online tools to teach the basics of meditation.

Finding the right therapist for you can make a difference.

When To Try A New Therapist If Therapy Isn’t Working

There are times when the answer to an unsuccessful therapy plan is simply a new therapist. It’s important that you, the client, feels heard and understood. A good therapist should be open and communicative with you about what you’re working on, treatment options, all prescribed medication and any additional info pertinent to your treatment plan. Even if you like your therapist, if you’re not getting the kind of care mentioned here, it may be time to find someone new.

Are you or someone you know suffering with mental health and the treatment isn’t working? It’s OK if therapy isn’t working and our therapists at West Wellness would love to help you along your healing journey.


Psychology Today, Joel Young, MD. Jan 20, 2015 ”When Therapy Doesn’t Work”.

Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic Staff. Aug 29, 2022 “Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress”.,physical%20and%20emotional%20well%2Dbeing.

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