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  • Writer's pictureCayla Townes

What To Do When Therapy Feels Stuck

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

You’ve been going to therapy for a while now. You feel good about finally committing to it and about the goals you’re working toward. But it doesn’t feel like anything is changing. It seems like therapy is going nowhere. You think, "Is there something wrong with me? Wrong with my therapist? What do I do?”

First, let me say this is totally normal. There is nothing weird or wrong or different about you because you feel like therapy has stalled. Most of the clients I’ve had in therapy for longer periods of time experience this at some point. The most important thing to do is acknowledge that you feel stuck and then figure out the best way to move forward.

Whatever the reason, there are ways to address feeling stuck in therapy. Below, I’ve detailed some of the most common reasons that therapy may feel stuck. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it may give you a place to start if you’re trying to figure out why therapy feels stuck for you. And may I recommend DEFINITELY starting with number one…

  • Let your therapist know you feel stuck. Underline it. Highlight it. Please please please let your therapist know that you feel stuck. Only our clients actually know how they feel about their work in therapy. As a therapist I can guess about how you feel therapy is going for you, but I could be very wrong. Sometimes a disconnect between how the therapist thinks therapy is going for a client and how a client thinks their therapy is going may actually be the reason for “stuckness.”

  • Maybe you’re not that stuck after all. This is the disconnect I mentioned earlier. Maybe you’re not as stuck as you think you are. Sometimes we have a hard time measuring our own progress, especially when it comes to a lot of the personal work we do in therapy. Reviewing the work you’ve done with your therapist can be a helpful way to evaluate if you’re really stuck or if you’re not giving yourself as much credit as you should for the progress you’ve made.

  • Your goals have changed. Life marches on and things change. Maybe the goals you came into therapy with initially aren’t actually that much of a priority anymore. Reevaluating your therapy goals can be a helpful place to start when you feel stuck. Even if you feel your goals haven’t changed, reviewing them and going over the progress you’ve made toward them may provide some motivation to help with getting unstuck.

  • Lack of motivation. Speaking of motivation, maybe you don’t have much right now. For a variety of reasons staying motivated with the work you’re doing in therapy can be difficult. Maybe you feel tired from working on such personal, emotional issues. Maybe the approach your therapist is taking isn’t really supporting you toward making meaningful progress. It could be a lot of things. If you’re feeling unmotivated in your therapy work, I encourage you to talk to your therapist about it.

  • Your expectations may be unrealistic. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but sometimes people come into therapy with unrealistic expectations for themselves, their therapists, and therapy in general. I’m not saying I blame anyone for this, but I do want to address it. I’ve had clients come into therapy with complex and complicated issues who are disappointed that their symptoms haven’t completely disappeared after four or five sessions. I can definitely appreciate their disappointment, but therapy can take time. Symptoms usually don’t go away overnight, and issues that took years to develop may not be solved in a matter of weeks. Sometimes the way therapy is portrayed in the media can make it seem like once you’re willing to go into therapy and cry a lot you’ll be totally symptom-free. But it isn’t like that for most people. However, therapy can help. It just might take more effort and time than you thought or hoped when you initially started.

  • You feel like your therapist just doesn’t get you. I hear you. Relationships are tough. It can be difficult to find people you want to sit next to at lunch, much less find someone to work on deeply personal, potentially painful issues with. Finding a therapist who is a good fit can take some work. Potentially finding another therapist after you’ve already shared your story with someone and invested time and money can be incredibly discouraging. I always recommend talking to your therapist first if you feel like you’re not working well together. But if you choose to continue your therapy journey by finding a new therapist, check out my blog post about how to make your search a bit easier.

  • Maybe you need a break. I don’t know of any therapist who believes someone should stay in therapy forever. I’ve worked with many clients who feel they’ve reached a point where they know they have more issues they’d like to work on, but they need a break. This is absolutely okay and sometimes needed. Therapy can be demanding and difficult work and there’s no reason you can’t stop and then come back when you’re ready to continue.

Whatever the reason, addressing feeling stuck in therapy is incredibly important. Not only do you not want to waste your time, energy, and money doing something that feels unhelpful, but your therapist doesn’t want you to either! Unhelpful is the opposite of what (I hope) all therapists want to be to their clients.

If therapy feels stuck now for you, I want you to know you’re not alone. But please don’t feel like you have to stay stuck! Like so many other things in life, if you feel like something is wonky, it probably is. Addressing feeling stuck in therapy, sooner rather than later, can help get you back to making the progress you want toward your goals.

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