Why therapy may make you feel worse before you feel better

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When people come into psychotherapy, they generally want something to change.  They may have a symptom they want to move past, like depression or anxiety, or they may have life questions they want to consider and find clarity about.  They may come hoping to leave the past behind them and to live in the moment, or to heal a relationship that is not working.

What is common across the many reasons that people come into psychotherapy is that there are no simple, superficial answers.  Sure, we can look at what kind of behavioural things have been shown to make a difference to depresssion or anxiety, but behavioural change is not often enough.  If it were that simple, people would not need psychotherapy.

Coming into a therapeutic relationship is making a commitment to explore, and come to know yourself better.  It is a step into the unknown, looking beyond what is obvious or on the surface, delving into the deeper patterns that inform the way you relate, think, feel and act.  It involves stripping back the subtle layers we place over our vulnerabilities and hurts to keep ourselves safe and comfortable.

This means that as the therapeutic relationship deepens, clients may, for a while, feel worse.  Daring to look, acknowledge, explore and even change deeply held beliefs, patterns of behaviour, and feelings is challenging, testing stuff.  You may well see things you do not like.  You may well have to come to terms with some uncomfortable truths.  Therapy is absorbing, it takes energy and commitment.

That said, psychotherapy is also often very engaging, dynamic, lively and at times enjoyable.  It's about a deep, real relationship that is filled with discoveries, surprises, and bitterweeet realisations.  It can be painful, but done well, it should feel safe and manageable.

Lives can change through this process.  I know, because mine did.  If you'd like to explore yourself and are up for the challenges involved, then get in touch.

Go to the profile of Fe Robinson, Psychotherapist

Fe Robinson, Psychotherapist

I am here to help you thrive, whatever life brings. I offer Psychotherapy, EMDR therapy and Couples Counselling to clients based in Durham. I am UKCP Accredited, BACP Registered, and an EMDR Europe Practitioner, and offer Clinical Supervision to counsellors and psychotherapists locally. I have worked in private practice, the NHS, and in charitable organisations, with a wide range of clients and conditions.

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