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Whitney Goodman LMFT


What to Do When Therapy Is Exhausting

Are you burnt out or in the middle of a breakthrough?

Everyone talks about how important therapy is. No one talks about how absolutely exhausting and messy it can be.

Therapy sessions are not for the faint of heart. They require a hefty amount of focus, dedication, and vulnerability. The process can become maddening. It feels like you're in the middle of a storm in your own psyche and there's no way out.

I’ve felt like this in my own therapy. I've become so frustrated and annoyed with my life, that I was desperate for someone to tell me how to fix it so I could move on. I wanted that quick-fix.

I have even stopped therapy because I just couldn't handle the mess of it all. I had to remind myself that it's OK to take a break. It doesn't mean you're quitting or giving up.

Therapy can be wildly insufferable when you’re looking for relief.

Humans like clear-cut answers and we often go to therapy to find those answers. When the therapist doesn't deliver, it leaves us feeling lost and out of control.

The truth is, the answers are inside of you and your therapist will help you find them.

Therapy is often about exploration and trying to find the answers to your questions through experience.

I like to give tools to help people get through the day to day, but I know those tools are only Band-Aids. I can tell you how to breathe, how many hours to sleep, and exactly what to say to your mother when she’s violating your boundaries. But, until you do it yourself and make it your own, we’ll keep having the same conversation every week.

Your therapist will hold space for the learning process.

They will allow you to have experiences in the therapy room where it’s safe and non-threatening.

A therapist can quote the research, recommend the books, and share the tools, but you have to live it. They may not have all the answers. I know I sure do not.

But, when therapy becomes too exhausting, it's important to look out for signs of burnout or that the therapist isn't a good match. It can be really hard to tell the difference between quitting because you're afraid of change or doing the work and taking a break to rest and recharge.

Therapy will feel exhausting at times, but will also feel liberating and expansive. It will allow you to learn more about yourself and the people around you. It may make you uncomfortable before it makes you happy.

If therapy is draining you, you may notice some of these signs that you need to take a break:

  • You consistently feel misunderstood by your therapist.

  • Going to sessions always leaves you feeling drained.

  • It doesn't feel like you're working towards your goals.
  • After a considerable amount of time, you don't seem to understand yourself any more than when you started.
  • You always dread going to sessions.
  • You feel like you need some space to actually implement the changes in your life.
  • You've experienced benefits from this therapist, but now feel like you need something new.

It's normal to have some dread or feeling of exhaustion after a difficult therapy session, but we don't want you to always feel that way. Check in with yourself often and make sure that this therapist or this type of therapy is working for you. There are so many different modalities, clinicians, and ways to heal available. You don't have to settle.

If you're currently in therapy or thinking about going, know that it will be tough but worth it. Here are some ways that you can get the most out of therapy:

  • Discuss your goals regularly.
  • Tell your therapist when things aren’t going in the direction you hoped or planned for.
  • Introduce new goals as you make changes.
  • Practice what you’re learning in session outside of the session.
  • Take notes when things come up between sessions.
  • Ask your therapist about your progress and what changes they may have noticed.
  • Book your sessions at a time when you are able to really focus on you.
  • Ask your therapist for supplements to your treatment like books, worksheets, and podcasts.
  • Be honest with yourself.
  • Practice what you're learning in therapy with your therapist.

About the Author

Whitney Goodman, LMFT, is a writer and licensed psychotherapist working with high conflict couples and individuals impacted by chronic illness in Miami, FL.