So, you made it through the hardest part– you made the decision to seek therapy. You asked for recommendations, sorted through therapist profiles and websites, maybe even spoke to a few. Finally, you selected a therapist who you believe can help you, and you are ready to get started. You think you’re on your way to feeling better, but then a strange thing starts to happen; you find yourself feeling worse. How can this be? You’re seeing a therapist and working hard to get through things. How can you be feeling worse, rather than better?
Believe it or not, this is a common phenomenon in the beginning stages of therapy. Taking a deeper look at the situation, it is easier to understand why you might feel worse before you feel better. When you make the decision to enter therapy, it is often because you haven’t been able to work through a particular issue yourself, and your friends and family haven’t been able to help you come to a resolution, so you call on a professional. This probably means a couple of things; the issue is complex and it has been troubling you for some time. Now that you have entered therapy with a trained professional, you are for the first time, exploring this issue and perhaps other issues in a deeper, more meaningful way. Therapy often involves cutting through the defense mechanisms you have used to protect yourself from difficult feelings, and this can be a painful experience.
At this point, you’re probably asking yourself, why should I go to therapy if it is just going to make me feel worse? Good question. And the answer is that while you may experience more pain in the beginning, this process is necessary in order to fully explore your situation in a way that will lead to new insights. These new insights often come with some much needed relief. But wait, it gets even better. Once you’ve made it this far, your therapist will be able to help you parlay your insights into action. Now, you’ve hit the jackpot. You came into therapy feeling lost and overwhelmed and now, with a deeper understanding of your situation, you are actively taking steps towards improving it and moving on to live the life you desire.
Certainly, if therapists began each initial session with new clients by telling them that they should expect to feel a whole lot worse before feeling any better, they probably wouldn’t keep too many clients. However, one of the most critically important elements of therapy is the development of a relationship between the client and the therapist. Skilled therapists can usually establish a solid rapport with clients within a few sessions. Once this rapport is established, therapists should warn clients that the process of psychotherapy can be very painful, especially in the beginning. This conversation may be a difficult one to have, but when a client is really ready to embark on the therapeutic journey, truthful dialogue opens the door to a secure therapist-client relationship– a relationship in which the client knows the therapist will be honest with him or her, even when it is not easy.
© Copyright 2010 by By Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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