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What is resistance in therapy?

Resistance in therapy is anything that stops any form of therapeutic progress. Resistance be intentional or unintentional and can occur at any point in the therapeutic process. Oftentimes resistance happens at the beginning of treatment especially if someone is new to therapy. They may feel uncomfortable opening up to a new person. However, resistance can also occur in strong, long-term relationships if there is an experience of rupture. Examples of resistance are frequent cancellations, lateness, silence, or challenging the therapist’s insight. Another way people can be resistant is by waiting until the last few minutes in therapy to share something big (e.g., a breakup, a termination, or a relapse). This is resistant because then there is not enough time for the therapist to discuss it with the client.

How does resistance affect me?

As mentioned, resistance is anything that stops or hinders the therapeutic process. People may be resistant for many reasons. They may be uncomfortable discussing something, they. May not know how to bring it up, the topic may be traumatic or triggering, or they may be distrustful of the therapist or angry with them. People experiencing resistance may still feel like they are getting some benefit by going to therapy, but the reality is that they are doing more harm than good because there is no therapeutic change occurring. With time they may grow to feel frustrated with therapy, the therapist, or with themselves and may even become resentful or cynical of the process.

How is resistance addressed?

Something to know about resistance is that the therapist has picked up on it rather quickly. Oftentimes, people might not realize that resistance is noticeable, but it very much is. Therapists can tell when a client is being resistant and may often address in the session. Client’s can also address it themselves. In fact, addressing it in therapy can be very therapeutic for the client. They can practice managing conflict in a safe space. If you are someone who feels that you are being resistant in therapy, take some time to reflect on why you might be resistant. You should know that therapy is a safe space and you should consider sharing your resistance with your therapist.

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.