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If A Therapist Isn't Working, What Will?

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,
I’m 15, have been severely depressed for over a year. I have social phobia, and cannot relate to people very well, even my family, who are very oblivious to me. It's not that I have low self-esteem, I do often feel extremely awkward but I know that am very I don't really get what's going on. Also, last year I suffered from anorexia, which put me in the hospital for ten days where I nearly died. I've been somewhat okay with being a healthy weight but recently I have found myself falling back into old patterns. I really hate my life lately, and don’t really see any point in living anymore. I am exhausted and have searing headaches all day, which is causing my and my grades are dropping, no matter hard I try. I’m just so tired all the time, and I hate having to suffer one day just to have to suffer again tomorrow. It doesn’t help that my closest friend recently attempted suicide and is recently struggling with anorexia. How am I, an anorexia-veteran, supposed to cope with watching her eating nothing at lunch, after all I went through last year? I’m just over life, and am even joining a year-long exchange student program to Sweden to get away from it all. It’s my way of starting over. I don’t know how I’m supposed to cope until next August when I leave, though. I’m so exhausted and sick all the time that I feel like I’m going to die. I even wake up in the middle of the night terrified that I’m going to die before I wake up again for school. I spend all my free-time along in my room crying. I’m seeing a therapist but it doesn’t seem to be helping. If a therapist isn’t working, what will? ~Depressed—-When in doubt, move to Stockholm
Signed: If A Therapist Isn't Working, What Will?

Dear If A Therapist Isn't Working, What Will?,


FX appreciates how hard it is to be dealing with various emotional health issues and to feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and confused when those issues do not seem to be resolving themselves. While you may feel a sense of suffering at times now, FX does not want you to give up. For one thing, FX does feel strongly that there are ways things can get better for you. Second, you have this exciting adventure on the horizon that may very well help you in terms of feeling like you are starting over with a clean slate – so FX does think it is well worth it for you to hang in there until then.

FX would like you to consider the following:

·         If you feel your therapist is not being helpful to you, have a conversation with your therapist immediately about it. The two of you may need to take a different approach in terms of the work you are doing together, or you may need to talk about whether this therapist is the best one for you at this point in time. It is possible that this therapist is not a good match personality-wise, doesn’t have the general experience you need, or doesn’t have the specific experience in terms of working with teens and/or eating disorder issues


·         If you and your therapist simply need to change directions in the work you are doing together, there are a few things to consider. The first is how much you are dealing with anger in therapy. People with depressive disorders, eating disorders, and even phobias are often dealing with a certain amount of underlying anger. When people are in treatment for these issues are not seeing any results, often it is because their anger is not being sufficiently addressed. How much have you talked about, looked at, or worked through any anger issues in therapy?

·         If you and your therapist need to change directions, consider how much your family has been involved in treatment. Many emotional and behaviors issues that teens deal with have problematic family dynamics as one of the contributing factors. If a teen is only participating in individual therapy, and certain family dynamics are not being addressed in a family therapy setting, many teens will find that their presenting problems continue to persist. If family therapy is not part of your treatment plan, or problematic family dynamics are not being addressed sufficiently enough for whatever reason, discuss with your therapist how to address this situation. 

·         If maintaining relationships with people who are suicidal or have other significant emotional issues are negatively impacting you, it is fine for you to put distance in those relationships. You are dealing with a tremendous amount on an emotional level right now, and it is important for you to make decisions that support your emotional well-being. If that includes dealing with certain relationships differently, that is completely okay.

·         If you have not done so already, FX would recommend that you meet with a medical care professional so that your headaches can be evaluated. It is very possible that the headaches are a result of the emotional duress you are under, but there is always the possibility that there is some underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed. To be on the safe side, please meet with a doctor about this issue.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

If you get to the point that you are seriously considering suicide or are afraid of your impulses then you need to seek help immediately. You can call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency room. In northern New Jersey you can also call the crisis hotline from Morristown Memorial hospital at 973-540-0100. Outside this area call the Suicide & Crisis Hotline, 1-800-999-9999, 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Signed: TeenHealthFX