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Counseling Didn’t Work For Me. What Do I Do Now?

Counseling Didn’t Work For Me. What Do I Do Now?

So, you tried counseling and hated it. What happens now?

The reality is that counseling might not work the first time you try it. It could take time to develop a relationship with your counselor, or you may need to try meeting with someone else entirely. Maybe you need a different kind of therapy. There are lots of options out there when it comes to taking care of your mental health.

“It’s a lot like dating,” says Brittney Moses. Moses is a mental health expert who wants to make mental health more accessible. A big part of that is understanding the ins and outs of the mental health world.

Moses sat down with RELEVANT to discuss how you can find not only a good counselor, but the right counselor for you, what resources are available to help you prioritize your mental health, why therapy is so much more than you realize.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

If someone knows they need to find a counselor, what resources are available to find the best one for their situation?

I’m glad you asked because this is a big deal for me as a millennial living in this economy. Therapy is not always super accessible or easy to navigate, especially when you’ve just got off your parents’ health insurance for the first time and now you’re trying to figure out how to find your doctor, dentist, and therapist. It’s all in that. And I say that as someone who is in training and has studied this—it’s hard. So I want to offer two routes: first, how to look for a therapist, and then low-cost options that are more accessible.

Typically, when looking for a therapist, people will go through their insurance and directory to see what therapists are within their coverage. Usually, there’s a website for your insurance directory or a number that you can call where you can put in your zip code and see which therapist is under your coverage nearest to you. Then you can start by cold calling or emailing them, letting them know you’re interested. It’s kind of like dating.

Another way to go is through directories like You can put in your zip code and find a therapist near you. PsychologyToday allows you to filter for insurance, cost or culture if you want someone within your cultural or faith background. So there are some filter options there that are cool. Directories work.

For low-cost options and accessible resources, there are great peer support groups. It’s not therapy, but it is beneficial. Trained facilitators help run these groups. I was trained as a peer support group facilitator for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They have peer support groups that are great. Also, university counseling centers offer free or low-cost counseling services to students as part of their fees.

Another low-cost option is graduate training clinics. Most of these clinics are at universities and colleges, where therapists in training at the graduate level provide therapy overseen by professionally licensed supervisors. Another great option is, a national directory of affordable and sliding-scale counseling services. They’re partnered with Open Path Psychotherapy, a nonprofit network of mental health professionals dedicated to providing in-office mental health care at a reduced rate for individuals, couples, children, and families.

Then there are hotlines, great for crisis situations or warm lines for when you need someone to talk to. There’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, now dialing just 988, and the crisis text line, offering 24/7 crisis support through text message. You can text 741-741 to connect with a crisis counselor at any time. These are great lines to count on when you need someone to debrief with.

You mentioned meeting with a therapist who has a similar faith background. What are the pros and cons of that? 

Oh, this is one of my favorite questions because I always get, if you’re a Christian, should you only be seeing a Christian therapist? And certainly, there are benefits to that. There are benefits to somebody who maybe already shares or understands the basis of your worldview. There might be a little bit less that you have to explain, and that’s super helpful. I will say that all therapists are trained or supposed to be trained to be culturally competent and to have some background and understanding of where people are coming from and to meet people where they are. So I think there is a fear sometimes in the faith community that if you go see a therapist who isn’t Christian, they’re going to try to override your beliefs and push this psycho babble jargon, new age, whatever, onto you. And I have to say that’s quite unethical. It is highly stated as unethical. You cannot go in there and try to change someone’s beliefs.

Being a culturally competent therapist means you are meeting people where they are, and trying to understand their worldview. What are the things that help them in their faith and continue to connect them to those resources, those faith-based resources in their own community as well? So that being said, I think I want people to think a little bit more critically about this because even if your therapist, say, is a Christian, that doesn’t mean that they believe everything that you believe.

And on the flip side, in therapy, we’re also taught that even though we have a client that maybe shares the same faith as us, that doesn’t mean that they believe everything that we believe, right? There is a vast spectrum of doctrine in the Christian faith, even types of denominations, different worldviews, and interpretations of scripture along the spectrum of faith. So either way, you’re going to have to get to know what it is that this person believes, what it is that informs their faith, what it is that helps them, what it is that shapes their worldview. Either way. So yes, it is helpful, but whether you have a Christian therapist or not, either way, you’re going to have someone whose goal is to meet you where you are, whose goal is to understand your worldview and to help that. I would say it is a red flag.

If there is someone who demeans that or kind of bypasses that or doesn’t seem to care about that or is pushing something else on you that is clearly against what you believe, that’s something worth having a conversation with them about. But my philosophy is that especially if someone’s in crisis, it’s just better to get help from someone who is trained.

Then no help at all, right? Like if it’s between locating, waiting and locating a Christian therapist and just finding someone to get your foot in, to get you the help that you need so you can start finding relief so that you can start functioning again, so you can start feeling better, I’d rather you just find someone who is trained because again, the educational tracks are very similar.

How can you know when a counselor is or isn’t working out for you? 

One of the things that I always want to point out is that, when it comes to therapy, in essence, you’re learning this person for the first time. They’re learning you for the first time. So it’s going to take some time to build that therapeutic relationship, what we call a therapeutic alliance. And, there is an assessment that’s taking place at first just to get to know you and what your goals are and what your backstory is. Right. So, that’s going to take a little time. So, I always say, give it some time, give it at least a couple of months, give it at least a few sessions, and pay attention to if they are also paying attention to what your needs are, I would say.

It’s a bidirectional relationship. So I would say first, if something’s not working, try to communicate it with your therapist or counselor. They’re learning you as well. See how they respond to those needs. If you notice that it’s just not working, there’s just still something that’s not connecting there, then you have the autonomy to seek someone who is a better fit for you.

I think that with any kind of health profession, any type of career like that, you might have someone who believes that you’re struggling with this, or maybe this might be a diagnosis. And if you’re not feeling completely sure about that, then again, in knowing your own health and wanting to be responsible with your own health, you have the autonomy to seek a second and even third perspective, to see if they all line up. Yeah. You can advocate for yourself, is what I’m saying. You have the right to advocate for yourself.

Therapists are trained to be understanding and empathetic and to be able to adjust to what’s working and what’s not working. And so, that would also be true of the relationship that you’re having with them. And hopefully, they will be able to understand and adjust to those needs. Because I believe any well-intentioned counselor or therapist is wanting to meet you where you are, but they just might be missing something or some information that they can only get from you.

A lot of people have a misunderstanding of therapy and think that it’s similar to simply talking to a friend. Can you explain why it’s more complex than that?

Yeah, I think there are some common misconceptions that people might have about it. What’s the difference between talking to your friend and talking to a therapist? Or as my husband says, when I tell him to go to the doctor, what are they going to tell me? That’s what you talk to the doctor for. Right? We go in like, what are they going to tell me that I don’t already know? Are they really going to be helpful? So how does talking help me?

And I want to pull out that with therapy, there is skill involved. There is assessment involved. There is goal setting and measuring the outcomes of those goals if your anxiety is actually getting better, if your depression is actually improving. We’re measuring it and we’re using specific evidence-based tools and skills to help.

So what separates counseling and therapy is the actual application of evidence-based knowledge and scientific information to inform judgment and decisions about what will be helpful to people in certain situations, right? That means these techniques, skills, and tools have been studied, researched in clinical settings to test for efficacy, basically meaning how well these techniques and tools actually work in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s not just a free-for-all. There is thoughtful application being used where there is training involved. Also, there’s protection there, right? Of confidentiality, meaning it will not leave the room. They’ll often say unless you’re going to hurt yourself or others, it won’t leave the room; it’s non-judgmental.

There’s empathy there and it’s a safe space, which unfortunately not everybody has. And that can be a hindrance to really diving into the help and work that’s needed to start getting better. So, yeah, that’s what I think I just want to throw out is the difference with therapy and counseling and maybe just talking to someone or talking to your friend. We consider friends, pastors, spiritual leaders, mentors, helpers, and they are important, supportive, helpful, and beneficial, but it is different than therapy, and I recommend that people just kind of have a tool belt of support, a community of support, and have all those things in their life if they can.

© 2023 RELEVANT Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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