How to Ask Your Therapist For Changes

woman on couch with therapist

When Michelle started therapy with Talkspace, she was happy with how it was going. Her therapist, Rachel, generally reiterated what Michelle said and then asked some questions to dig into the issues.

At first this style suited Michelle, and she was making progress. After a few weeks, however, Michelle felt the therapy had become stale.

“I was feeling frustrated by all the questions and really wanted something more actionable from her,” she wrote in her review of Talkspace.

Then Michelle remembered what Rachel told her at the beginning of their work: “Tell me how you feel things are going so this can be beneficial to you.” Following Rachel’s instructions, Michelle communicated her concerns. Rachel responded by offering actionable mental health strategies.

“We did some trauma/catharsis work, personality tests and analysis, and ongoing gratitude activities,” Michelle wrote.

After that Michelle was once again satisfied with therapy and continued to work through her mental health issues.

“By two months in, I could say I really felt like she had helped me,” Michelle wrote. “Five months in, I look back and see how instrumental my Talkspace therapist was in helping get through a period of depression.”

Millions of people have tried therapy and, like Michelle, reached a point where they become dissatisfied. For example, some clients want their therapists to offer more lengthy responses.

These issues may sometimes frustrate clients, but they don’t mean the therapeutic relationship is doomed. By providing feedback and voicing constructive criticisms, clients and therapists can move past misunderstandings and assure that the therapy has a positive impact. If this doesn’t work, then it might be time for the client to find a better fit.

Unfortunately, many clients immediately switch therapists or terminate therapy once they are not satisfied with the treatment. People are vulnerable during therapy, so it can be difficult to start awkward conversations about not receiving what they need. It often seems easier to find a new therapist, give up on therapy, or ghost on their current therapist.

Clients often expect therapy to take the course they want and benefit them without communicating their preferences. They sometimes feel like any dissatisfaction is a sign that therapy can’t help. Some clients simply don’t know they have the option of asking therapists to adjust their style or strategy.

There are also clients who conflate the therapist’s trouble matching their preferences with a lack of competence. Nonetheless, even highly skilled and experienced therapists who have a natural connection with clients sometimes need guidance to offer what those clients are looking for.

If your therapist isn’t providing the kind of feedback or guidance you want, consider raising the issue and giving them a chance to change course. This tactic can be less time-consuming than switching therapists. If it doesn’t work, at least you will know you tried and didn’t miss out on a great therapeutic relationship.

Here is a template you can use to start that awkward but valuable conversation:

“Hi (insert name of therapist),

I feel like I haven’t been getting exactly what I want out of therapy lately. I’m certainly not blaming you, but I wanted to suggest we try something different that might work better for what I’m looking for. Can you do (insert what you want) instead of (insert what you haven’t been satisfied with)?”

If you tend to have trouble with conversations like this, where you need to ask someone to do something differently, use therapy to practice and build confidence. Among many purposes, therapy is a safe space for clients to learn how to effectively express yourself. Expressing how you feel your therapy is going is no exception.

Improving lines of communication is helpful in all relationships. With openness and willingness to make the relationship work, the therapist you were disappointed with could become a great ally in fighting to improve your mental health.

Published by

Joseph Rauch

Staff Writer at Talkspace