Ask Sahaj: When is it time to quit a new therapist?

 

Sahaj Kaur Kohli. Photo Twitter @SahajKohli

Sahaj Kaur Kohli, creator of Brown Girl Therapy, will be answering questions about identity, relationships, mental health, work-life balance, family dynamics and more.

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Q: How do I know if therapy is working? I don’t feel as if we’re making progress, and I’ve been with my therapist for a few months already. Shouldn’t I feel something by now?

– Therapy skeptic

A: It’s important to understand and conceptualize what “progress” means to you. In the beginning of our sessions, I often like to ask my therapy clients: “How would you know in six months that therapy is working?” If your therapist hasn’t initiated this, it might be a good idea to ask whether you can spend some time setting tangible long-term and short-term goals with them.

Remember that goals can change, and therapy is dynamic. You’re not expected to have complete clarity around what your goals are, but it makes sense to start with the thing that led you to seek out therapy in the first place. Sometimes, in delving into one struggle or issue, your therapeutic work may lead to an excavation of something deeper.

And other times, things happen in real time while working with a therapist that can redirect your goals. A good therapist will be able to hold space for this while using their skills to help you track progress, potentially revisit goals and guide the work toward the root of the wound.

It’s important to note: One of the top indicators of success in therapy is the strength of the relationship a client feels with their therapist. So if you don’t feel comfortable with someone, you may end up being too preoccupied with managing the lack of comfort or safety you feel in the room to put in the important work.

This is not to say that your relationship with your therapist will always be positive. And sometimes therapy feels worse before it feels better! Identifying and sitting with our pain and pursuing healing is hard, so make sure you are giving yourself space to decompress after.

What’s more, progress doesn’t happen immediately, nor is it a passive or linear process. But there should come a point where you can take what you’re learning in therapy and apply it to your everyday life and relationships.

If after considering all of the above you do feel as if something is not working, broach the topic with your therapist. I know many clients feel uncomfortable correcting, self-advocating or confronting a therapist, but therapists are humans, not mind readers, and we want the best for you.

That’s what it comes down to: You deserve quality care. Ultimately, you’re doing yourself a disservice by investing in a therapeutic relationship that isn’t working.

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