Written by: Courtney Kershaw
Whether therapy is for individuals, couples, or families, one of the first tasks is to create goals together. Goals are specific to you and what exactly you’re looking to get out of the therapy experience. And then you spend your time working towards those goals with your therapist. Maybe you even discover some other topics along the way.
So, what do you do when it feels like you’ve stopped moving, but you know you’re not “done”?
When you know you still have therapeutic work to do, but you find that therapy sessions are a little stale or that you’re not getting much out of the session, then what?
This is where the relationship between client and therapist can be a great tool. We can use the relationship as a place to practice identifying a “problem” and working towards a solution. As the client, you have the right and the ability to advocate for your experience in sessions.
If you find these patterns are being repeated in therapy, you may be stalled.
Signs you may feel stalled in therapy:
- Do you spend most of the session “catching up”?
This is more specific to getting stuck in story-telling mode for so much of the session that you never end up going deeper with the information.
- Do you spend most of the session quiet?
If you can’t think of anything to talk about, and topics that are brought up rarely lead anywhere, the session can feel flat.
- Do you remember what you talk about in sessions?
Few people remember everything that they talk about in every session, but when you find yourself habitually forgetting sessions or noticing that you struggle to identify anything significant for several sessions in a row, this may be a signal.
- Do you find yourself forgetting or canceling appointments regularly?
Needing to cancel, reschedule, or forgetting a session is normal to a degree and it’s going to happen on occasion. When you notice it happening regularly, that may be a sign that something is motivating you to avoid sessions because they aren’t feeling impactful.
If you’re feeling stalled, that’s when we use the therapeutic relationship to address the problem and build towards a solution.
Ways to get out of the rut:
- Revisiting goals
This is a great way to see if you feel stalled because you’ve achieved your goals and need to set new ones, or if we got off track and need to come back to the original goals to feel purposeful again.
- Changing the approach
Identifying the current approach to therapy isn’t moving or challenging you can be very helpful. Sometimes changing up the routine and exploring the problem from a different angle is all it takes to make sessions feel unstuck again.
- Talking about outcomes
If we’ve discovered some of the original goals have been met, then we can talk about what continued growth looks like. What outcomes do you want to see and how will we get there?
Sometimes this conversation leads to recognizing that the work is actually complete, and we need to address the anxiety about ending sessions.
It could also be a time to learn that your new goals may actually fit best with a different therapist. This is a transition that we don’t talk about very much, but it can actually have great benefit when done well.
Getting to experience ending a relationship with a therapist in a healthy way and transitioning into a new therapeutic relationship in pursuit of your personal growth can be a great example of how to mirror transitions in your personal relationships.
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