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Can Therapy make you worse?

As a private psychologist with years of experience helping people through the most difficult times of their lives, it is horrible to know that this is the most commonly asked questions about Therapy. But, I see it all the time. I see how difficult therapy can be for people, and work closely with them when they go through a period of feeling 'worse' before getting 'better. So, I thought I would write about it!


1. The Rollercoaster of Emotions in Therapy

When embarking on therapy, it's not uncommon to expect immediate relief or solutions to long-standing issues. However, therapy often involves diving into uncharted emotional territories, which can initially heighten distress. Here are some reasons why this happens:


  • Uncovering Deep-Seated Trauma: Therapy can reopen old wounds, leading to a resurgence of painful emotions.

  • Emotional Flooding: The process of therapy can unleash a deluge of suppressed feelings, leading to overwhelming sensations.

  • Therapist Compatibility Issues: An incompatible therapist can exacerbate feelings of discomfort or misunderstanding.

  • Resistance to Change: The human psyche naturally resists change, and therapy often challenges long-held beliefs and behaviors.

  • Awakening of New Self-Awareness: Gaining new insights about oneself can be unsettling, as it may challenge your self-perception.

  • Frustration with the Pace of Progress: Therapy is a gradual process, and impatience for quick results can lead to frustration.

  • Perception of Stagnation: Repeatedly discussing the same issues without noticeable progress can be demoralizing.

  • Emotional Exhaustion: The intensity of exploring deep emotions can be mentally and physically draining.

  • Shifts in Personal Relationships: Therapy can lead to changes in personal dynamics, which can be challenging to navigate.

  • Vulnerability: Opening up about intimate details of your life can leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable.



2. Getting the Right Therapist: A Key to Successful Healing

Finding a therapist who resonates with you is crucial to the success of your therapy. Here's how to find a therapist who aligns with your needs:


  • Do Your Homework: Research therapists' qualifications, areas of specialization, and treatment approaches.

  • Trust Your Instincts: Pay attention to how you feel during initial sessions. Comfort and trust are paramount.

  • Seek Recommendations: Personal referrals or professional endorsements can be valuable.

  • Evaluate Communication Styles: Ensure that the therapist's communication style matches your preferences.

  • Beware of Warning Signs: Be cautious of therapists who guarantee quick fixes or don’t respect your boundaries.

  • Consider Logistical Factors: Location, availability, and insurance compatibility are also important.


3. Navigating the Therapeutic Process: Strategies for Smoother Sailing

While therapy can be challenging, there are strategies to help make the journey more manageable:


  • Open Dialogue with Your Therapist: Express your feelings and concerns about the therapy process openly.

  • Embrace Journaling: Writing down thoughts and feelings after sessions can provide clarity and relief.

  • Prioritize Self-Care: Engage in activities that nurture your well-being, like exercise, meditation, or hobbies.

  • Set Realistic Expectations: Acknowledge that therapy is a gradual process with natural ebbs and flows.

  • Lean on Your Support Network: Share your experiences with trusted friends or family members.

  • Develop Coping Mechanisms: Learn techniques like mindfulness or deep breathing to manage emotional distress.

  • Practice Patience and Perseverance: Recognize that healing is a journey, not a destination, and requires time and effort.

  • Reflect on Therapy Content: Spend time processing what was discussed in sessions to gain deeper insights.


4. The Bigger Picture: Therapy as a Path to Self-Discovery and Growth

It's important to remember that feeling worse after therapy can be an indication of progress. As you confront and work through difficult emotions and experiences, you're laying the groundwork for long-term healing and personal growth. Therapy is not just about alleviating symptoms; it's about embarking on a journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and transformation.


In therapy, we often find that our greatest challenges become our most profound opportunities for growth. The discomfort you feel today can be the catalyst for tomorrow's breakthroughs. Each session is a step towards understanding yourself better, developing resilience, and ultimately finding a more fulfilling and peaceful life.

In conclusion, while therapy can sometimes feel like a stormy sea, it's also a voyage towards calmer waters and brighter horizons. With the right therapist, effective coping strategies, and a commitment to the process, you can navigate through the initial turbulence to find clarity, understanding, and lasting well-being. Trust in the process, and remember that each step, no matter how challenging, is moving you closer to a healthier, more self-aware

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