Social Question

Unbroken's avatar

How rare is it to move beyond a plateau with a counselor?

Asked by Unbroken (10257 points ) February 2nd, 2013

What are reasons for “plateauing” with a counselor. Do you stop going at that point? If so would you consider going back to the same one?

Or would you choose to stick it out and keep working on issues? What would be the factor to continuing productivity.

Is there ever a point in which going to a counselor is a range between unnecessary/unhelpful to unhealthy?

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19 Answers

burntbonez's avatar

What is a “plateau?” Do you feel stuck? You’re not growing? Not changing? Not learning anything?

Who called it a plateau? You or your counselor?

You’re the customer. The customer is always right. If you want to leave, leave. Find someone who works for you.

Unbroken's avatar

Sorry I should have explained what plateauing meant.

Plateauing in my case is when I have learned and come miles very rapidly in my counselling sessions only to hit a wall. I seem to be stuck or making very little progress. Though my initial goals for going seemed to be in the process of being resolved, if it is an ongoing issue that is multi step or worked through.

The thing was I was either focusing on the same problem or learning more about the counselor herself.

Both times I sought out counselling I reached this stage and then situations came up where it was more inconvenient to go or just impossible before I reached another stage.

I was curious as to what would have happened should I have continued. And so I wanted other people’s experience or input into it. Depersonalized or personalized. Whatever the individual was comfortable with giving.

I am not currently seeing a counselor. So there is no one to fire. I left both counselor’s very happy to have met them and very grateful for the help and guidance they gave me.

wundayatta's avatar

My counselors have told me that if I leave a session upset or unhappy or in turmoil, that means it was a good session. Presumably, if I leave happy, it’s not so good.

My goal was to be happy. I entered therapy in a suicidal mood and a couple of years later, I exited feeling not unhappy and not likely to harm myself. During that time, I couldn’t tell if I was making progress. Nothing ever changed dramatically for me. It was slow, slow, slow. The end was a gradual realization that I just didn’t really want to come any more.

I might go back occasionally for a “tune-up.” Not sure what that is, but I’m thinking there are things that have happened since I left that were questions when I left, and they have changed and become different questions, and that I might benefit from talking them over with someone who has my therapist’s perspective.

I guess for me, it seemed like I was stuck until the very end. But my stuckness and your stuckness are probably very different. I never made much progress during therapy, although, looking back, I can see I covered a lot of ground.

Stuck sounds to me like a reason to stay in therapy. Our goal is to be free. We can’t be free if we are stuck. However, I’m not sure if your therapist is the right therapist. But if you are stuck, you should definitely be working on it. I don’t know with whom, though.

Unbroken's avatar

@wundayatta thanks for your insight. It sounds as if our experiences were very different.

I suppose it goes to show we all are individuals. The beginning of therapy was much like you described. Leaving dazed and with headaches. Upset and distracted. By the end of our visits I would leave in a much better place.

Stuck might not be right the word. Goals either in process of accomplishment or met.

zenvelo's avatar

For me, I was in therapy for 6½ years up until December of 2012. And I stopped partly because of money and also because I had moved beyond my awareness of what I was reacting to. What I learned about periods when I felt I was in a plateau like nothing urgent bothering me, was that I still needed to practice and integrate what I had learned. And that took a long time.

augustlan's avatar

I left therapy when I was very stable, though not completely well (I don’t know that I’ll ever even be completely well, heh.) Any progress being made seemed infinitesimal at that point, and therapy sessions almost seemed to be just like two friends chatting. That was my plateau, I guess, and she and I both knew it was time to go. Since then, I’ve been back to the same therapist twice (one session each), when I was faced with new difficulties and needed a ‘booster shot’. She was very helpful each time.

Sometimes you’re just not ready to progress yet, too. In that case, so long as you are stable, I think it can be beneficial to take a break from therapy and go back later when you are ready again.

susanc's avatar

(I really like @augustlan‘s “booster shots”. This therapist is someone who’s been through the wars with you and doesn’t have to have everything explained to him/her.)
Plateau might just mean you’re not in crisis any more. That’s a good thing. Some therapists think those times mean you’re resisting but that might be the ego or the dollar speaking.
I’ve done both – drifted away sometimes, other times doubled down to twice-as-often sessions for a short time to see if the thought/feeling process would intensify.

Shippy's avatar

Change therapists.

marinelife's avatar

Several times I reached a plateau with a counselor. What I did at that point was move on to a different counselor who could focus on what I wanted to focus on in my work at that point.

bookish1's avatar

Great question, @rosehips.
My therapist (who is wonderful) told me once that her goal as a counselor is to be fired. In other words, for her services to be no longer necessary to a specific client. I’ve cut back on sessions with her because the last few times I’ve felt that I was paying her to be my friend rather than to work on particular problems. I’m trying to extend the time between sessions so I can try to work on things on my own. But she has made it very clear that she is always there for me if more problems arise.
I guess people can become addicted to therapy, as to any other habitual behavior. I think it’s important to keep in mind why you are going, and what you are getting out of it.

hearkat's avatar

If you feel that you’re no longer making progress but that there is more work to be done and you would rather not change therapists, consider whether there is anything you may have withheld or not fully disclosed to your current counselor. In my first attempt at therapy, I never allowed it to go really deep and only focused on issues in the present and didn’t delve into the underlying causes from my childhood. It placated me in the moment, but I never really felt better about myself and my problems resurfaced time and again.

It wasn’t until my next try, when I realized that the only way to get past my problems was to work through them by being completely open with my therapist, that I made significant progress. She “graduated” me after a few years, but I still fell back into my old ways with low self-esteem and bad relationship choices. Personally, my biggest breakthroughs came on my own; but I still recommend working with a therapist’s guidance, but recognizing that it is still you that has to do the work of healing yourself.

Unbroken's avatar

@zenvelo Interesting statement, moving beyond awareness. I would be lying if I said I knew what that meant. However I think I see a glimmer of what it could mean.

Good reminder about continuing to integrate and practice what we learn in therapy.

@augustlan I completely get what you mean when you say you “felt like two friend chatting” I was wondering whether that was professional but it seems perfectly natural. Booster shots would be nice.

@susanc That is so true about wars. Kind of why I feel hesitant to seek out a new therapist. It’s an investment.

Curious did you break through when you doubled down?

@Shippy If I decide to continue I will have to, my old one moved out of state.

@marinelife It does seem like therapists have specific specialties. It seems a shame to have to rebuild a relationship with a therapist. To be on comfortable level with them.

@bookish1 Very sound advice. I had in the past cut back too. Best of luck.

@hearkat “My biggest breakthroughs came on my own.”
Yes, and yes. It is nice to be validated and be motivated the way a therapist will.

marinelife's avatar

@rosehips Every counselor hsa human limitations. Sometimes your therapeutic needs take them out of their comfort zone.

rojo's avatar

I had a psychologist tell me I could be a real bastard sometimes. Duh! Like I would disagree with him on this point! On the serious side however, it did bring it to my attention and I have tried to address the issue. (Not that I do not have occasional lapses according to my spouse)

Unbroken's avatar

@marinelife I suppose I will reluctantly yield your point : )

@rojo Eh too much perfection and control would just be unnatural. Be a self aware asshole and pay for it later.—>not a licensed therapist. Am not responsible for negative results… Gotta love some bluntness though.

susanc's avatar

@rosehips – Yes, when I doubled down we talked differently. It was a little uncanny. I wasn’t catching the therapist up on the events of the week – we could get right to work on the conversation we were having in the office. On the other hand, this was pretty pricey, so I learned to take notes after I went back to more widely spaced sessions and come in with questions. Like a good student….

annewilliams5's avatar

I’ve reached non-progress points, with my counselor, because of my fear of continuing. She knows it, and stays with me, with the intent to show me that I have to find my successes at my own rate. Every time I push back against the event that started me into therapy, she knows where the pain is coming from, and she allows me to process at my rate. I’m at about the lowest I’ve ever been, right now, and she’s not going anywhere. My support group is also staying with me, which truly amazes me. Lately, I’ve not felt worthy of any of the support. But there they are, staying with me.

Unbroken's avatar

@susanc Yes I found I was much more productive when I brought notes in, though I stopped for some reason.

@annewilliams5 It is great that you have a support group and that are sticking with you. It is essential and regardless of whether I know you or not you are worth it. Good luck with your journey.

wundayatta's avatar

Support groups are great! Mine sticks with everyone, and it is a great example for me, because there are times when I get so tired of things. But I keep on going and keep on going and I listen to everyone and I try to find things to say even though I’m not having problems any more. People tell me it’s important for others to see people who are doing well, too, and that I still belong.

I know I belong. It’s the only place where I know people understand my experience. But since I’ve not been depressed (except minorly) in a few years, I feel more distant from the trauma. Also, I know it’s important to hear things in person, but I find myself saying the same truths over and over, so sometimes it’s hard for me to make it new and fresh.

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