Don’t Quit Now: 5 Things to Remember When Therapy Sucks

julian-santa-ana-111265-e1509637347363.jpg

Therapy is Awesome – and Hard

Therapy is a powerful resource for healing painful wounds from the past, understanding current triggers, and making changes to shape your future life. What isn’t always printed on the label, so to speak, is that sometimes therapy is hard. 

Sometimes it downright sucks! When you’re exploring difficult memories and past experiences, challenging long-held beliefs about yourself and the world, and basically….changing your life…there is bound to be some pain.

If you’re considering trying therapy and you’re feeling intimidated, take heart. There is wonderful potential for healing, especially if you can hang in there when things don’t feel so good.

Here are five things to remember when therapy sucks

1. Getting stuck does not mean you are failing at therapy.

Sometimes working through a difficult emotion, belief, or life experience feels like being stuck and not progressing. When an issue or concern arises more than once, it can feel like you’re just treading water or that therapy isn’t working. But when you’re doing the hard work of healing deep pain, it’s important to know that those wounds don’t necessarily heal in one fell swoop. Deeply held memories, feelings, and beliefs tend to shape many aspects of our lives, and it may take more than one session – maybe months of sessions (or more) – to fully heal and move on.

2. The hardest part of therapy may not be what you expect.

Sometimes as a shock that the hardest part of therapy may not be the pain you’re in when you start. Coming in at rock-bottom feels pretty awful, but sometimes the really hard part starts after you begin to feel better.

If you find yourself struggling more after you start feeling better, know that you’re not alone. Sometimes the hardest moment is when you clear the first hurdle in your personal journey, only to see ten more on the horizon.

If you can hang in there, though, just remember that every hurdle brings you closer to your goal.

3. Setbacks in therapy do not mean you are failing at therapy.

When you’re trying to change a problematic pattern in your life, it is very normal to slip up and suffer setbacks at times. Setbacks in therapy might include things like relapsing in self-harm behavior when you’re trying not to cut. Or getting sucked into family drama again even though you try so hard to set boundaries with your mother-in-law. I know it can be frustrating when you want to move forward, but remember that progress in therapy is rarely linear, and setbacks don’t negate your progress forward.

4. It’s ok to slow things down.

Most of us probably wouldn’t expect to run a marathon at full speed with no breaks, right? Therapy often resembles a marathon more than a sprint. Listen to your body and your heart if you find yourself dreading your next session. If you feel overwhelmed or fried from the hard work of therapy, let’s talk about it. You may benefit from planning a session focused on meditation, mind-body connection, or progressive muscle relaxation to recover from a particularly intense piece of work.

5. If it doesn’t feel right, talk it through.

If you feel stuck, burned out, or frustrated about your progress, let’s be curious together about what is happening. Maybe we’ve gotten our wires crossed about your goals. If so, let’s see what we can do to get back on the same path. Or perhaps there are parts of you that are struggling with something about therapy. If so, let’s explore those concerns.

It can be intimidating to tell the professional helper that their help is not, in fact, helping. But if you can talk to me about what doesn’t feel right, we have an opportunity to fix it.

We can do this together.

I have the greatest respect for the courage you bring to the therapy room, and I honor your hard work. I am here with you through the breakthroughs and the hard sessions.