I’m in Therapy, So When Will I Get Better?

I am in therapy and have been since September 2011, and I am dealing with overwhelming emotions due to anxiety and depression. How long does it take for the emotions to be normal range again? - Emotionally Overwhelmed
Dear Emotionally Overwhelmed,

First, I’d like to thank you for writing in with such a great question and also to commend you on the very brave step you have taken by entering into a therapeutic relationship to fully explore your experience of depression and anxiety, gain insight into it, and ultimately move towards the freer, more fulfilling life that you so richly deserve.

Unfortunately, I will have to give you the answer that many of my graduate professors and supervisors provided me and my fellow students years ago in response to many of our questions during training—it depends. If this answer frustrates you, believe me, I understand, as it certainly frustrated me and my classmates. The uncertainty in answering such a question is rooted in the fact there are far too many variables to account for. Among the variables, one that seems particularly significant to your question is that your normal range of emotions is unique to you. Some people are more emotive than others, so their normal range would look pretty wide compared with someone who is less emotive.

It might be helpful to talk to your therapist about what you recall as your normal range of emotions and assess how that range compares to where you were when you started therapy back in September, as well as where you are now. Once you start discussing this, you may realize that there has been more improvement than you originally thought. Because therapy can be a fairly slow-moving process, small changes occur that you might not even notice, but these small changes are often the building blocks for the bigger, more tangible changes that you are seeking. In this conversation, you might also ask if there are some concrete tools or techniques your therapist can offer you to help you manage your emotions between sessions.

Another important piece to consider is that often times when people take the brave step that you have taken in starting therapy, they find a strange phenomenon occurs—they start to feel worse! If you have or are experiencing that, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone and this probably means that you are working hard and making progress. Therapy requires you to delve pretty deeply into some of the most painful areas of your life and this can really hurt, but it is a necessary part of the process to move towards healing and will be well worth it if you commit to the process, see it through, and come out much stronger on the other side. Finally, I encourage you to always talk openly to your therapist about the process of psychotherapy when you have questions or concerns about how your work is going. This can be a very rich area of exploration and growth that is all too often overlooked.

Kind regards,

Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.

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