What if therapy goes wrong?

Regardless of your therapy provider, from time-to-time things don’t go according to plan.  It may not be anybody’s fault, it just might mean that you and your therapist have reached the end of your therapeutic relationship.

So what happens if therapy is not working?

Even the most excellent of partnerships will sometimes slow down, and hit the proverbial brick wall. In such situations it is important to discuss your concerns with your therapist and explain to them how you’re feeling about the progress of your treatment.

When progress in therapy does slow down, talking to your therapist should help. New goals can be set, and new exercises planned together (‘together’ being the operative word).

Beware the therapist that simply turns round and accuses you of not working hard enough… whilst you have to answer that question honestly yourself, in our experience if a therapist says that, it’s a good indication that it’s time for a new one!

We always suggest talking problems through with your therapist first, but if you really feel the therapy partnership has gone as far as it can, there is nothing wrong with searching for a new therapist. It is not a sign of failure; it may just be that a new therapist approach is needed. Think of it like learning to drive; you don’t always pass your test first time and  sometimes a fresh approach with a different driving instructor (therapist) can make the difference, therapy is the same.

Whilst accessing a new therapist via the NHS is not straight forward, you can ask to be stepped up to another therapist either within the same team or at a higher stepped care level. Although should you choose to do this, be aware that you may have to go back on a waiting list.


My therapist is lovely, I don’t want to change
This is something we hear quite frequently, especially where patients have been with the same private therapist a considerable time.  Whilst we all want a therapist that is nice, someone we can feel at ease with, can open up to and importantly trust. Be wary of therapeutic relationships which simply become about ‘talking’ rather than ‘doing‘.

It’s great to have a nice lovely therapist, but by the same token we need an effective therapist that will move us forward.  So if after a few weeks (at any stage) you feel you have stopped making progress, then it may be time to implement the steps above to discuss it.


Audio record therapy sessions
As mentioned on the getting the most out of therapy page, talking about your problems can be an emotional experience. Therefore  inevitably during therapy we will at some point forget to mention something important, or forget what the therapist said.

So if you feel therapy progress is grinding to a halt, before having a conversation with your therapist, it may be worth audio recording a couple of sessions and listening back to see if therapy feels different outside of the emotional confines of the therapy office.


On rare occasions where communication with your therapist has been exhausted and you feel let down, you may find you want to make a complaint,here are some steps you can take.

  • NHS – In many cases, you can escalate concerns or complaints with the service manager, by calling or preferably in writing. However, if this does not resolve the matter, you can escalate your complaint to your local commissioners (CCG) or NHS England/Wales/Scotland, something your local NHS PALS may be able to assist you with. The NHS have some advice on making a complaint on their website (see the links in the additional reading box).
  • Private – If you’re working with a private therapist who is a BABCP member, then you can explore making a complaint through the BABCP or any other regulatory body the therapist is a member of. The BABCP takes complaints made about its members seriously and have a formal Complaints Procedure, which you can view on their website.


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