Being in therapy can be a wonderful experience. You have the opportunity to increase your insight, sharpen your emotional intelligence, and resolve maladaptive habits. However, despite the many merits of therapy, there are some drawbacks. For instance, positive, long-lasting change often takes a considerable amount of time. Due to this, some people often feel stuck in therapy. If you are currently seeing a therapist and feel stuck with your progress, this article is for you. Additionally, this article will help you assess whether you are truly stuck in therapy or if you simply feel as though you are. If you are truly stuck, no worries. This article will also guide you on how to free yourself from that inertia.
Before going forward, it’s important that everyone is on the same page. This article defines “feeling stuck” as the experience of spinning your wheels in place. Essentially, the person perceives their progress in therapy as slow, or as coming to a halt. The person wants more development, but feels unable to obtain it. This can occur for many reasons. For instance, the client may not be ready for the necessary changes, the gap between sessions is too long, or the therapist isn’t pushing the client enough. Feeling stuck in therapy can happen for multiple reasons, including the structure of therapy.
A lot of people come to therapy when they are in crisis. Naturally, the therapist and client tackle these issues first. Additionally, crises are often immediate problems with immediate solutions. Once these crises are over, however, therapy sometimes pivots to the behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that caused the crisis in the first place. This analysis can take some time, while learning to undo bad habits can take even longer. When taken all together, this means that therapy can feel accelerated in the beginning, only to slow down considerably. However, it is important to note that this is only one reason for why some people start to feel stuck in therapy. Some other barriers include time, money, embarrassment, impatience, and resistance to change. The reasons are as varied as the people in therapy. For example, some people may experience financial or time constraints, which may cause their therapy sessions to be inconsistent. Another reason could be the reluctance or embarrassment of revealing deeper issues. For instance, it may be easy to tell your therapist about your recent breakup, but more challenging to admit your attraction to emotionally unavailable people. Regardless of your reason for feeling stuck, here are some ways out of it.
Write Down Your Accomplishments
There is a tendency to be unaware of the progress that one actually makes. Because you are with yourself every day, change rarely feels drastic. Simply put, you don’t pay attention to the small progress that occurs over the course of each day. It’s no different from watching yourself physically grow. Growing a centimeter every month was unperceivable for you, but not for your aunt who only saw you once a year. Essentially, this sensation of feeling stuck in therapy comes from an issue of perspective; growth can be difficult to notice when it’s happening to you. Fortunately, there are ways to expand your vantage point.
Since starting therapy, grab a sheet of paper and list all of the things that you were able to accomplish. Specifically, think about your goals in therapy and your progress towards them. Take your time with this activity, and be as honest as you can. After you have written your accomplishments down, read them out loud. Here’s an example of how it can all look.
Goals: Understanding my emotions, reducing my anger, improving partner communication
· I can now name my emotions when they come up.
· I am aware of what triggers my anger.
· I can list at least 10 feeling words now.
· I can tell when I’ve said something that has upset my partner.
· I can actually give my partner space when she asks for it.
Focus on How You Handled Your Last Hardship
Once again, incremental change can be hard to notice when it’s happening to the person. Another way you can challenge the feeling of being stuck in therapy is to focus on your last hardship. Grab a sheet of paper and write down your most recent challenge. Focus on an event that was challenging, distressing, or emotionally evocative. To make it easier for yourself, choose an event that tested one of your goals in therapy. Some examples could include your last argument with someone, having to fix a problem with your car, unplanned financial issues, or plans with a friend falling through. Whichever issue that you pick, write down how you handled that hardship. Now, write down how you would have handled that same issue before you entered therapy. Here’s an example of how this activity can look.
Goal: Reducing my anger
Hardship: My 5-year-old niece accidentally broke my favorite mug.
How I handled it now: Calmly explained the importance of not running in the house.
How I would have handled it before: Yelled and cursed at the brother-in-law before storming out of the room.
What were your results? Was there progress? If so, take some time to sit with that revelation. It may help you realize that there’s more work happening in therapy than you realize.
Push Yourself Outside of Your Comfort Zone
As said before, a person can feel stuck for multiple reasons in therapy. However, there are also times where the person is legitimately stuck. Positive change requires time and effort, and if you’ve had plenty of the former, you may need more of the latter. Essentially, if you have done the above activities and still feel as though you are not making the progress that you want, it may be necessary to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Try asking yourself the following questions.
- Am I working as hard as I am in therapy, as I am outside of therapy?
- Am I being completely honest with my therapist?
- Do I tell my therapist everything, even things that I may be embarrassed about?
- Am I feeling challenged in therapy?
- Do I always do my homework assignments?
- Am I practicing what I learn outside of therapy?
- Does my therapist know that I feel stuck?
- Am I asking my therapist to push me more?
If you find yourself answering “no” to the majority of these questions, then you could probably push yourself more to free yourself from feeling stuck. Simply revisit the questions and behave in a way where you could answer “yes” versus “no.” Additionally, it is important to note that your therapist could also be responsible for you feeling or being stuck. This is why it is so crucial to let them know how you feel After all, they can’t fix a problem if they are unaware that there is one.
If you have done the above activities, told your therapist that you feel stuck, and nothing changes still, it could be useful to find a new clinician.
f you need help determining which therapist might be a good fit for you, or you want morning hours (6am-12 noon), very late evening hours(8-10pm), or specific weekend times, group therapy or you have an unusual situation call (215) 922-LOVE and speak to the intake coordinator or call the founder of the organization Alex Robboy (267) 324-9564 to discuss your particular situation. Most of our therapists offer more hours than what is posted online, some appointment time slots can only be scheduled by calling us. We have a wide range of therapists at The Center for Growth / Therapy in Philadelphia.
There are 17 therapists at the Center for Growth. We each have our own unique area of expertise. Between the 17 of us, we pretty much cover every topic. Not all of us do everything. Additionally, our own backgrounds shape how we see the world. We have Black therapists, Asian therapists, Caucasian therapists, Male therapists, Female Therapists, GLBT therapists, Jewish therapist, Christian therapists, and Muslim therapists, married therapists, single therapists, mom therapists, doctoral and masters level therapists, old therapists and young therapists. To find the right therapists for you, please feel free to read the therapists biographies or call and speak with one of us today.
Schedule a session with a professional at The Center for Growth at www.therapyinphiladelphia.com/contact.