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Why therapy isn’t always the answer

Such a controversial idea, especially from a psychologist! I know!

I often hear that people have been told to access therapy by those around them, because of things that are going on in their lives, and so they do, because they feel they should. Or they feel angry, and resentful, because actually all they wanted was for those around them to listen to them, not to send them to therapy.

However, therapy isn’t for everyone. For some people the idea of talking to a random stranger about what’s going on in their lives feels weird and uncomfortable. In fact, for many, talking full stop is hard.

I’m also aware that therapy isn’t accessible to everyone either, and since the beginning of the pandemic it's becoming harder and harder to access.

I know it’s a cliche, but sometimes what we need more than therapy is time. Time to process what's happened by ourselves and to try and make sense of it all. Getting some distance from an event, having some time to process and make sense of it - even just being able to talk to those around you, and express your feelings can help. Having that sense of community, and knowing that you are supported can be what you need.

I think it’s helpful to remember that resilience is when we are able to feel our emotions, and know that they aren’t going to last forever. When we are able to just sit with them, notice them, allowing them to pass, and knowing that takes time. Rather than trying not to feel anything at all.

I think there is a belief, often perpetuated by social media, that we should be happy all the time, and that if we aren’t that there is something wrong with us. Except happiness isn’t the goal, it’s something that we enjoy along the way, on this journey that is life. We need to move through those tough emotions, just like we move through joy, excitement, and happiness. Just because we feel sad, doesn’t mean we need therapy.

For many people moving forward physically in some way can be helpful, and allow them to move forward with their thoughts as well. Running (and walking) require you to move your body in a rhythmic way, moving from left to right. By doing this, it also means that you are stimulating your brain from left to right. Neuroscience is starting to show that this process of stimulating the left brain, then the right brain, repeatedly, helps to reduce the level of distress we feel about something, and therefore, helps us to process and make sense of an event. This helps us to remove some of the threatening meanings we may have attached to the events that we have witnessed.

For others the process of writing, be that using formal journal prompts, or just writing everything that’s going round and round in their heads can be such a powerful way to help them to release emotions, and make sense of what is going on for them.

Having friends and family that they can talk to is essential for many people, and for lots of people this is enough. They can process what is happening in their lives by being open with those around them. To be honest, as part of my therapeutic work I often look at who someone has in their life, and think with them about who they can talk to. As therapy isn’t forever. Those relationships are key. People who have your back, people you can talk to no matter what. People who you can have a laugh with and take your mind of it all when you need that too.

Therapy can be great for helping us to find these tools and understand how they can be useful for us. I am a huge advocate for therapy, but it’s not always the right answer.

However, if you are struggling, and feel that nothing is helping. If you find that you just don’t have the resources within you to make the changes that you need. If you feel that you are unable to function in your day to day life, then it might be that therapy is what you need.

If therapy is something that you would like to explore, then you can either speak to your GP for an onwards referral for therapy, or alternatively, in England you can make a self-referral for yourself to your local IAPT service here

You can also find private therapists on The Psychology Today Website, and Counselling Directory, and all therapists on these should be accredited and verified.


About the author

Chloe Bedford is a HCPC Registered Counselling Psychologist with over a decade's experience in working with children, adolescents and their families. Chloe recently left the NHS to set up in private practice largely working online. You can find Chloe at and @drchoebedford on Instagram sharing tips and information.

Chloe is also a very enthusiastic runner and can be found on Instagram @the.running.psychologist where she runs a series of Tuesday evening lives discussing running, motherhood and mental health with different professionals.

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