Recognizing Resistance in Growth

By Jenna DeRosa, LPCC 

verified by Psychology Today

Growth and change that occur within the walls of the therapy room are beautiful processes. While they are beautiful, they are also extremely challenging and scary. It’s important to recognize the multiple layers of growth, as it may be contributing to resistance in the room as growth begins. Recognizing resistance in growth will help you overcome the barriers you put in front of your own progress.

Oftentimes people think that when they enter the therapy room, things will fall into place. That the therapist will help give them some tools in a few short sessions and they will be on their way. In reality, it’s work that can be very long and uncomfortable.

This work causes individuals to take a deep look inward and at the world around them. This process allows the client to learn things that need to be unlearned, and with that comes change. Change for the better, but change that is still uncomfortable when individuals have been living the same world for many years.

Here are some examples of what resistance can look like for clients. This can help individuals to recognize why change isn’t occurring, why maybe they find therapy useless, or why they feel like they can’t connect with the therapist. This can all be resistance playing a part in how you’re showing up in your own process.

1. Not showing up on time to sessions

Are you often late to your sessions? Whether that’s a few minutes or 15 minutes. This can show that there may be a disinterest in the therapy process. That you are not prioritizing your appointment.

2. Not coming prepared

What does coming prepared look like? Showing up with topics/events/situations to talk about, continued processing from the last session and bringing things to continue talking about, topics from journaling prompts throughout the week, etc. This all shows that you are utilizing your sessions in a direction of growth.

3. Canceling or rescheduling often

Canceling or rescheduling is common, but when it is a recurring issue that is a sign that there may be resistance. Again, clients who are motivated for change will make sessions a priority.

4. Not doing homework or goals

Some therapists will have homework or goals as a way for the client to continue the work in between sessions. If you are not completing or have forgotten about the goals, it’s important to take a look at why that is happening.

5. Being dishonest

How honest are you with your therapist? And if you aren’t, where is that coming from?

Examples: not wanting to talk about something important because it’s painful, not wanting to change the behaviors, fear of judgment, uncomfortableness, etc.

6. Not talking/small talk

Are you providing short answers to the therapist’s questions? Are you talking extensively about something that isn’t related to you?

Resistance is extremely common, you’ve probably had your therapist bring it up to you in session. This can all come from a place of fear. Fear of growth and fear of change, fear of emotions, fear of accountability. It’s crucial to be honest and recognize resistance within yourself because they are your sessions. How do you best want to utilize them?

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