“Therapy is Making Me Feel Worse, Not Better!”

Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Calling and booking a therapist for the first time can take tremendous courage. It can be something you have thought about for months, or even years.

The relief you feel that you finally took the big step can leave you expecting a reward. You arrive at the therapist’s office secretly expecting miracles.

You want the therapist to have all the answers. To wave a wand and make years, or even a lifetime, of issues and mood swings disappear. Or to at least 'fix you' in ten sessions or less.

Instead, if you are like most people, you find out that you have more issues than you realised. In fact perhaps the very thing you thought was your problem isn’t. It’s something else entirely. You can feel a bit stunned.

The quiet, safe atmosphere of the therapist’s room works like a magnet pulling things to the surface. You remember things you had forgotten, feel things that you didn’t know you felt, think things you didn’t realise you did.

And then suddenly you feel bad. Or even awful. Overwhelmed, even.

So that means therapy just doesn’t work for you, right? You should probably quit therapy? Or maybe the therapist just isn't any good?

Wrong. Feeling worse after starting therapy is absolutely normal. It's just something not enough of us admit to. It actually means therapy is working.

Here’s the big truth. It’s not even that you feel worse. It’s that suddenly you are feeling at all.

Therapy stops you from hiding. It means all the emotions you’ve spend years ignoring spill out into the open. And that can feel tough.

In fact often after a therapy session, you can experience any of the following:

  • extreme fatigue
  • cloudy thinking
  • feeling weepy or angry
  • not wanting to see your friends
  • vengeful thoughts
  • snapping at those you love.

But these are not reasons to quit therapy! They are actually reasons to continue. They mean that you are ''processing', to use therapy speak. Things are moving.

And is that not better than a life spent wasting all your energy avoiding your thoughts and feelings and your very self? Unable to have healthy relationships, experience real joy? Often feeling numb, low, like life is pointless?

Therapy is a journey, not a cut and dried solution. There are ups and downs. Suddenly it works, and we feel better than we have in ages. Then a new memory surfaces, and we feel sad again.

But the more we continue on the journey of therapy, the more we start to reclaim who we are. Our real desires, our true thoughts. Our relationships improve, we find we have more energy. And one day we realise that we are experiencing several moments of quiet contentment every day. Life is really okay just as it is.

When we really ‘get’ therapy, we drop the expectations. We just show up to our session and let ourselves be open to what will come. Because most of all, we realise we are worth the journey and the challenging but rewarding work that therapy is.

Are you ready for the journey of therapy? Book a session today, and be talking to the therapist of your choice as soon as tomorrow.

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