Don’t Give Up

Therapy is hard work. Even getting in the door that first time can take considerable effort. I am well aware that talking to someone you do not know can be difficult. Especially when you have experienced early or repeated trauma, have trouble feeling safe or knowing how or whom to trust.  It takes time and a great deal of emotional investment to do the work of trauma recovery, or any kind of deep healing work. And let’s be frank, sometimes you may feel worse before you feel better. Or at least you may feel worse during some parts of the process.

For this and many other reasons, you may be tempted to give up before you’ve done the work you set out to do. Or maybe you feel somewhat better and decide that’s enough for now. A recent research study I came across via ScienceDaily reminded me of how often depressed clients give up on treatment, perhaps before it has a chance to be effective.

Psychiatrists typically recommend that depressed clients continue with antidepressant medications for at least 6 months and often up to a year after symptoms have subsided. It can take time to see any effect, and sometimes stopping prematurely may make matters worse.

A study conducted by Catalan researchers found that only one in five people completed   treatment for depression. 56% of those treated with antidepressants stopped taking their medication during the first four months, and less than 25% continued their treatment for more than 11 months. Drop out occurred most in the very beginning of treatment. Men were even more likely to stop treatment early: 50% of men gave up their medication after two months, while 50% of women gave it up after three months.

The study also investigated the reasons why clients terminated treatment early, but alas this information is not included in the ScienceDaily summary. I know side effects and lack of quick enough results can be common reasons for discontinuing medication. In addition, the very nature of depression itself makes it challenging to do even the things that are likely to help!

Of course talk therapy differs in many ways from medication management. Still, it may be important for therapists and clients both to be aware of factors that can lead to giving up on treatment. Hopefully you can bring your questions and concerns about medication or talk therapy to your provider! Talking about your reasons for wanting to end treatment may actually be a valuable part of the therapy process; you may learn more about yourself and/or your relationship patterns!

I would like to encourage you to give yourself the time you need to fully heal, in whatever way you define that. If you are depressed, if you struggle with unresolved trauma or pain from your childhood please invest in yourself and your healing. Healing is in fact possible. Work towards seeing your providers as your partners in this endeavor: let them know what’s working and what is not. You do not have to do the hard work of therapy alone.

Kathleen Young, Psy.D.


M. Catalina Serna, Inés Cruz, Jordi Real, Eduardo Gascó, Leonardo Galván. Duration and adherence of anti-depressant treatment (2003 to 2007) based on prescription data base. European Psychiatry, 25 (2010) 206-213

FECYT – Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (2010, November 22). More than half of depression patients give up their treatment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/11/101122111510.htm

This entry was posted in Abuse, Depression, Health, Men, Mental Health, Psychologist, Therapy, Trauma, Women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Don’t Give Up

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Don’t Give Up | Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Chicago --

  2. Erin Merryn says:

    Great post Kathleen. I am not a big fan of doctors that just drug people up. Therapy needs to go with it. Drugs will not solve the problem …might help the symptoms of the problem but not solve it.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Erin!

      I certainly agree with you. Talk therapy (along with expressive therapies for many) is the heart of trauma work. I do see medications as one useful and (for some) necessary tool to help with the overall work of trauma therapy. When medications are needed/helpful it is so important to work with your providers re how and when to stop rather than going off them cold turkey or prematurely, in my experience.

  3. Lily says:

    Boy, did I need this post. I am having a horrible time in therapy right now, feeling like every time I go I’m just digging myself into a deeper hole with all these things I’m uncovering and it just seems less and less hopeful.

    • I am glad you read this now then Lily. I really encourage you to keep letting your therapist know how horrible and hopeless you are feeling! I hope you can be extra gentle and compassionate with yourself; these hard phases of therapy really are challenging!

  4. WG says:

    Awesome post – thanks Dr K 🙂
    (and as always,… you’ve given me an idea…)

  5. Katie Goode says:

    I try to let new clients know that sometimes it seems like things are getting worse before they start to get better. So many times, we stuff our feelings or try not to think about things… Then, you start therapy and it’s all you’re able to think about. Stick with it and it will get better.
    Thanks for another great post!

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