6 Ways to Keep Therapy Engaging Over Time

As a therapist (and someone who attends therapy), I‘ve noticed some interesting trends over the past couple of years.

For starters, therapy has become much more accessible and less stigmatized. Because stigma has waned, people are seeking out therapy earlier, which means they may need fewer sessions to experience the relief they’re seeking.

This leads me to the second trend I’ve noticed. As therapy seekers are resolving their needs earlier in the therapy process, they tend to be unsure of how to use therapy and become a bit disengaged.

Before going on, I want to name that feeling disengaged in the therapy process is normal. Like any other growth-oriented experience, there will be stretches of time in therapy when motivation is hard to come by.

That said, it can be helpful to have a couple of ideas on how to maintain engagement in therapy when you’re feeling disconnected.

person at therapy

Tips for how to keep therapy interesting

1. Evaluate the cadence of your therapy sessions.

While some styles of therapy like DBT or psychodynamic sessions have specific recommendations for the frequency of therapy sessions, most therapists can be flexible with session frequency.

If I notice a client feels less engaged or has fewer needs to discuss in session, we’ll discuss whether seeing each other less often is a good option.

Clients often reflect that dropping down to biweekly or monthly sessions allows them more time to practice skills they’ve learned in therapy and use their session time with more intention.

If stressors increase or new problems arise, you can always increase your session frequency.

2. Look forward.

If you’re currently feeling stable, it may be a good option to use therapy to make intentional plans for your future. Reflecting on what you want for your future and how you intend to make it happen can support goal fulfillment.

Additionally, future planning with a therapist can support you in avoiding unhealthy patterns you may have engaged in when working toward previous goals.

3. Look at your past.

As a therapist, I specialize in working with folks who’ve experienced trauma. This means in initial sessions, I often hear that people are hoping to work through past negative experiences.

While some people are emotionally stable enough that they can dive right into trauma work, most people need a period of time to address current issues and build trust.

While you may not have started therapy to work through past traumas, most people can benefit from working through old pains.

Engaging in healing old wounds can help most of us let go of resentment and fears while allowing for renewed hope for our futures.

4. Consume content about topics related to your mental health.

Sometimes when I’m feeling disengaged in my work with my therapist, I try consuming content related to my own mental health needs to see if I feel inspired.

Reading books, listening to podcasts, or even watching Tik Tok videos may encourage you to consider your mental health in a new way.

Bringing the topics that are interesting to you to your therapist can support you in applying those topics to your own life in a meaningful way.

5. Talk to your therapist about your concerns.

Of course, the best way to address feeling disengaged from therapy is to bring your concerns to your therapist. It’s likely your therapist has noticed a shift in your engagement, and they may have some ideas on how to provide support.

Also, some of the responsibility for your therapeutic engagement lies on your provider’s shoulders. If therapy isn’t feeling productive, your therapist has some responsibility to improve the experience.

6. Consider seeking out a new therapist.

If you’ve tried the above tips and are still feeling disengaged, it may be time to look for a new therapist. Finding the right therapist can sometimes feel like dating. The therapeutic relationship requires the right chemistry — and your chemistry may not be right.

Think about what’s missing from your current therapeutic relationship and use that to guide you in choosing your new therapist.

Now that you have some ideas for how to keep therapy engaging, I want to also state that long-term therapy isn’t for everyone.

If your mental health concerns have been resolved and aren’t related to a chronic mental illness or personal need, it’s perfectly appropriate to end therapy sessions. Continuing sessions without a plan or desire to grow may not be the best use of your time or resources.

Therapy will always be there if you find you need it again — and we therapists will welcome you back with open arms.

Mental Health Think & Feel

About Sarah Kelly

Sarah Kelly is a licensed social worker and certified alcohol and drug counselor. Sarah received her MSW from Loyola University and Chicago and currently works as an individual and group therapist for Clarity Clinic Chicago with an emphasis in addiction and trauma work. While Sarah believes that therapy is a significant and often necessary tool to foster personal and community wellness, Sarah believes in caring for the whole person and whole community. Sarah works towards this value by engaging in Chicago’s running and yoga communities, tapping into several book clubs and indulging in the bachelor. Sarah hopes to support you in the process in discovering what brings you value in yourself and your community.

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