When you’ve been engaged in therapy but don’t feel like you’re making progress, it can be very frustrating.

If this feeling has occurred for you, approach your therapist and let them know you’d like to collaborate to problem solve. Both you and your therapist can begin to look for barriers that are getting in the way of progress. Some common barriers to treatment progress:

  • Fear
  • Unclear communication between a therapist and client
  • Severe symptoms
  • Substance use
  • Distractions

If you’ve been canceling or not showing up for therapy appointments, showing up late, resisting treatment strategies, or considered dropping out of therapy all together, it’s possible that you’re experience these barriers to progress.


Fear can manifest as a fear of getting better and losing the identity of the problem; a fear of confronting one’s issues; a fear of opening up to one’s therapist; or a fear of failure. When these fears are recognized, they can be processed with the help of the therapist.

Unclear Communication

Unclear communication between the therapist and client is another issue that should be addressed directly in the therapeutic relationship. Make sure you and your therapist are on the same page regarding your goals and which treatment methods or modalities feel most effective for you. 

Severe Symptoms & Substance Use

Symptoms of mental health issues and substance use can pull a person’s attention away from the underlying issues that need to be addressed in order to fully heal. It may be necessary to adjust the focus of treatment to the symptoms and/or substance abuse temporarily until they are resolved to the point that the focus can return to the underlying issues.


Distractions are inevitable. One strategy to help redirect attention and priority away from distractions and back to therapy is to write a list of the reasons therapy is important to you when you begin treatment. Refer back to this list whenever you notice your priorities changing.

Progress in therapy is not a linear process. Having realistic expectations can help prevent and alleviate feelings of frustration. Remember being honest with yourself and your therapist is the key to having successful experience with therapy.

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