Does therapy hurt?

Sometimes a client will be come aware during or just after a session of feeling worse than they did before. They came because they wanted to feel better, so what’s going on? Is the therapy working?

Often during our lives we build coping strategies, ways that help us get through the day the best we can, in the moment. Let’s say you tend to internalise things. These strategies might include holding your tongue when someone is out of order, because overall it seems easier not to fight. You might feel that a situation is unfair then reason with yourself that compared to someone with real problems you have nothing to complain about. It is natural to avoid and defend against feeling or expressing these negative emotions and bottle them up. You don’t want to bother others with your ‘stuff’. If anyone asks, you’re “fine”. Until one day you’re not.

In therapy, you have a safe, confidential space to own, express and explore your true feelings. As a therapist, I genuinely care about the pain, its causes and how it impacts your life. When the pain is no longer ignored or minimised, you start to feel it. You might be stretched out of your comfort zone. So it is possible (but not essential) that therapy can hurt as you start to change and build resilience. The pain can be part of the transition towards healing and growth.

It is also important to work out if your therapist is the right one for you. Therapy should be a non-judgemental, safe place and your therapist must be appropriately qualified, empathic and able to explain why they think a particular approach might be suitable for you. Check out your therapist’s credentials, ask them questions, challenge them. Your recovery is paramount; it’s your choice and your right to decide if you would like to continue. Any therapist worth their salt would welcome that discussion.