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Adverse Results When Therapy Sessions Fail to Work

When Therapy Sessions Fail to Work

Therapy usually aims at improving a person’s mental health and well-being by addressing behavioural, physical and emotional issues. Therapy is widely accepted by people and regarded as the most effective way to address several mental health issues, including trauma, anxiety and depression from serious experiences such as child labour when young, rape or even a victim of bullying in high school. However, therapy doesn’t always work. 

There are several situations where a victim of trauma or depression can have hired therapists to help them but haven’t found solutions to their conditions. Negative outcomes associated with therapy can include reliance on therapy, exacerbation of symptoms and increased emotional distress. Therefore, it is always advisable for the therapist to acknowledge and address the outcomes in therapy to ensure that clients get the best possible support.

Adverse Outcomes of Therapy

  1. Emotional Distress and Worsening of Symptoms

    One of the most significant challenges of therapy is the worsening of symptoms by clients. This mainly occurs when the therapist brings up painful or difficult memories that the patient may not be prepared to face at the moment. Also, therapy may not always result in immediate recovery from trauma, and some patients may temporarily experience worsening of their symptoms before they start experiencing positive results.

  2. Failure to Develop Coping Mechanisms for Situations

    Another potential negative outcome of therapy is that patients may rely overly on the therapy to a level that they can’t develop their own means of coping with their situations. While therapy can be very helpful to a patient, it is not meant to be a long-term solution. It is, therefore, vital for people to learn and develop coping mechanisms that they can utilize outside therapy to aid them in controlling their symptoms and maintaining their mental health.

  3. Therapist-client Relationship Issues

  4. Problems in the relationship between the client and the therapist may also be a negative outcome of therapy. This can result from a lack of trust and miscommunication between the therapist and the patient. If these issues are ignored, they can't have a negative impact on the therapy sessions or even termination of the therapeutic relationship between the therapist and the client.

  5. Social Consequences and Stigma

    Some communities do not recognize mental health issues as significant and view seeking therapy as a sign of weakness. This is a big challenge for people who rely on therapy to solve their problems. For instance, such people may face ostracism or discrimination from community members who do not understand or agree that mental health issues are health conditions. In such a community, individuals with mental health issues may be perceived as unstable, crazy, or lazy. They may face negative consequences like being excluded from social events, losing their jobs, or even being disowned by their own families. This discrimination can create an atmosphere that does not favor those who believe in seeking therapy and can be a negative outcome. Therapists and mental health professionals need to acknowledge and address this stigma and work to promote greater understanding and acceptance of mental health issues and to find a therapist.

When Therapy Sessions Fail to Work

Factors Contributing to Adverse Outcomes in Therapy

  1. Client-related Factors

    Several client-related factors can contribute to adverse outcomes in therapy. These may include a lack of readiness for therapy or motivation, previous negative experiences with therapy, or the presence of co-occurring mental health or medical conditions that may impact the effectiveness of therapy.

  2. Therapist-related Factors

    Therapist-related factors can also contribute to negative outcomes in therapy. This may include a lack of training or experience, personal biases or limitations, or misunderstandings or miscommunications with clients. 

    For example, a therapist who is not well-trained in a particular therapeutic modality may struggle to provide effective care, which could lead to negative outcomes. Similarly, a therapist who holds personal biases or limitations that interfere with their ability to be empathetic or understanding towards their clients may also contribute to negative outcomes in therapy. Misunderstandings or miscommunications with clients can also contribute to negative outcomes in therapy. This may occur if a therapist fails to understand the client's perspective or experiences, or if they are unable to effectively communicate their therapeutic approach or goals to the client.

  3. Therapeutic Process-related Factors

    The therapeutic process can contribute to adverse outcomes in therapy. For instance, therapy may bring up painful or difficult memories that the individual may not have been prepared to face. It may not always result in immediate developments, leading to frustration or hopelessness. In some cases, the therapeutic approach or strategies used by therapists may not be the best fit for the patients, leading to a lack of progress or even worsening of symptoms.

    An example of a therapeutic process-related factor that can contribute to adverse outcomes in therapy is When the therapist brings up uncomfortable or difficult memories that the individual was not ready to face. For instance, a person seeking depression therapy may start to look into underlying feelings of trauma or grief all through their sessions. The process of exploring these issues may be emotionally painful for the individual, and they may not have anticipated the severity of the feelings that arise during therapy. This can leave the person getting overwhelmed or distressed, which can result in adverse outcomes in therapy.

  4. External Factors

    External factors refer to social or cultural factors outside of the therapeutic relationship that can contribute to negative outcomes in therapy. Social or cultural factors such as stigma or discrimination related to mental health can also contribute to adverse outcomes in therapy. These factors can create additional stress or barriers to seeking help and may impact the therapeutic process and outcome. 

    For example, individuals who come from communities or cultures where mental health is stigmatized may face unfair treatment or social exclusion for seeking therapy by others. This can create feelings of shame and may make it more complicated for people suffering from mental health issues to seek aid or engage in therapy sessions. Also, cultural differences in communication styles, beliefs about mental health, and other factors may impact the therapeutic process and outcomes because the patients may find it difficult to understand their therapists and might even fail to disclose important information that is important for the therapy and to avoid negative outcomes.

When Therapy Sessions Fail to Work

It is therefore important for therapists to know these factors, acknowledge them and strive to address them in order to prevent the risks of adverse outcomes in therapy. Also, clients can play an huge role in their own care by communicating their concerns and needs with their therapist and finding appropriate support and materials outside of the therapy that can help them recover from their mental health issues.

Addressing Negative Outcomes In Therapy

Several strategies can be used to address the issue of adverse outcomes in therapy. These include:

  1. Integrating informed consent and continuing evaluation: Integrating informed consent and continuing evaluation: Therapists must get their clients' consent after addressing the potential drawbacks and advantages of treatment and laying out clear expectations and boundaries.
  2. Establishing clear expectations: Effective therapy requires a solid therapeutic relationship. By being understanding, sympathetic, and non-judgmental toward the patients' issues, therapists might try to develop connections with their patients. Clear therapy expectations and goals can also direct the therapy sessions and keep the therapist and patient on good terms.
  3. Tailoring therapy to individual needs and preferences: There is no specific method for treating mental health problems; therapists must instead adapt their methods to each patient's unique needs and preferences. This may entail experimenting with various therapy modalities, being adaptable, and being receptive to client input.
  4. Encouraging self-care and other forms of support: Therapy is only one aspect of mental health care; the therapist should encourage clients to practice self-care and seek additional help as needed. Counseling is simply one part of comprehensive mental health care. Exercise, meditation, support groups, and other pursuits that foster mental and emotional health may fall under this category. This strategy will help the patient from being overdependent on the therapy sessions to be stable mentally.
  5. Supervision for therapists: To ensure that therapists are equipped to provide high-quality care and address potential issues, ongoing training and supervision are essential. This can help therapists stay up-to-date on the latest research and techniques, provide support and guidance as needed to their patients, and prevent the occurrence of adverse outcomes.

By incorporating these strategies, therapists can help to minimize the risk of adverse outcomes in therapy and promote positive therapeutic outcomes for their clients.


In conclusion, therapy has the ability to significantly help those who are dealing with mental health problems, including depression and trauma. Yet, adverse effects can emerge, and it's essential to recognize and deal with these problems to encourage effective therapeutic outcomes for patients. the factors that could influence how therapy turns out include Client-related, therapist-related, therapeutic process-related, and external influences like stigma and discrimination. Therapists can use techniques like informed consent, ongoing evaluation, setting expectations that are clear and tailored to each client's needs and preferences, encouraging self-care and other forms of support, and ongoing training and supervision for therapists to keep them up to date with new techniques that are crucial to preventing the adverse outcomes of therapy.

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