Therapy is a central part of recovery from addiction. Even if you participated in intensive individual and group therapy as part of an addiction treatment program, it’s typically a good idea to keep seeing a therapist after you graduate. More than half of people with substance use disorders also have co-occurring mental health issues. Keeping those in check and learning to cope in a healthy way is crucial for long-term sobriety. Engaging in therapy long-term is a way to keep yourself on track, work through new issues, learn and practice stress management techniques, and practice applying the concepts you learned during treatment in real-life situations.
However, like with any professional relationship, there may come a point where you notice that it’s no longer working. If this happens, it’s best to express your concerns rather than abruptly quitting. This is a relationship that you’ve invested in considerably. Switching therapists comes at the price of cultivating a similar relationship all over again. Communicating the issues you are experiencing might clear them up altogether, thus eliminating the need to switch. Tell your therapist you’d like to take some time during your next session to talk about your progress and concerns, and possibly set some new goals. If it still appears things won’t work out, then consider finding someone new. The following are a list of potential reasons to switch therapists.
Several practical reasons to switch therapists exist. Moving to another city is perhaps the most common. Even then, some therapists now do virtual sessions, so if you have a good relationship with your therapist, you may prefer a Skype session to starting over with someone new. Another common problem is not being able to afford therapy anymore. If this is the case, say so. Many therapists work on a sliding scale and your therapist may be able to offer you a lower rate. Perhaps changes in your insurance coverage have put your therapist out of network. Again, you may be able to work something out, so if you like your therapist, be honest about whatever practical problem you’re experiencing.
Feeling safe with your therapist is imperative and most therapists take professional and ethical conduct very seriously. If you feel like your therapist has behaved unethically or unprofessionally, you may want to consider seeking alternative therapeutic support. For example, you should never feel unsafe or harassed in a session. Another big red flag is if your therapist breaches confidentiality. Unfortunately, this breaks trust and can cause you to worry that what you are sharing may not remain private. Ultimately, misconduct of these sorts is reflected in your ability to receive proper treatment and experience progress. Therefore, taking the time to find someone new may be your best option.
Other conduct causing concern may be more situational. For example, you notice your therapist is looking at their phone while you’re talking. Naturally, you expect your therapist to be attentive and listen to you, so seeing them distracted could be hurtful. However, something like this might be worth talking about. Maybe they are in the middle of a family emergency and were trying not to bring it into your session. One might assume that there’s a correct, professional way to handle these kinds of things but some situations are tricky or ambiguous. If something seems like a minor lapse, consider discussing it with your therapist. However, an accumulation of minor lapses may be sufficient reason to look for another therapist.
It’s important to understand and accept that your needs will change as you progress in therapy. Usually, your therapist will be able to address your new needs. Unfortunately, there are instances in which this is not the case, as every therapist has their own areas of strength and expertise. For example, when you start out in recovery, your biggest problem might be impulse control and your therapist may be exceptional at helping you deal with that. However, as your impulsivity decreases, you may find that a new issue is surfacing that requires work. Perhaps your primary concern now is communication and boundary setting, but your therapist isn’t as experienced in these issues. In cases like these, it may be beneficial to seek alternative therapeutic support specific to what you are going through.
Often, decreased progress in therapy results in it feeling like a chore. Not every therapy session is going to deliver a life-changing epiphany. However, you should at least feel like you’re gaining insight and seeing some differences in your life over the course of weeks or months. Typically, your therapist will track your progress through goal setting in areas that you wish to see improvements. Seek involvement in this process by reviewing your goals and your progress with your therapist. Doing so will support your growth and avoid wasting time.
Therapy is a professional relationship but it is still a relationship. We don’t get along with everyone we meet and it’s entirely possible you’ll end up with a therapist you don’t connect with. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with either of you. You’re just not compatible, and that’s OK. Keep in mind that your therapist isn’t necessarily supposed to be your friend. However, you do need someone you can work with productively. For example, if you always feel like your therapist is judging you, you may have trouble opening up, making it difficult to establish a positive therapeutic relationship. Trust is crucial to experience growth and progress in therapy. Seeking a therapist that you feel comfortable with and connected to may be beneficial in situations like these.
On the other hand, if you get along too well with your therapist, that may not be ideal either. A productive therapeutic relationship should be more reflective of one you would have with a teacher or mentor, as opposed to one you might experience with a friend. Deciding if your therapist is right for you may take some time. Don’t worry if you don’t hit it off right away. Typically, therapeutic relationships take a while to mature and get comfortable. However, if it’s been a couple of months and you feel like you’re just not getting along, consider finding someone new.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Hired Power is here to help. Our dynamic team of experienced recovery professionals is committed to guiding you every step of the way as you embark on your recovery journey. At Hired Power, we are dedicated to helping you decide on the best treatment program and transitional services to meet your individualized needs. Additionally, we offer interventions, sober monitoring, and even personal recovery assistants to support a smooth road towards recovery. Making a change is never easy, but it’s always worth it. If you’re ready to live a life free from addiction, call us today for a consultation at 714-559-3919
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