When Therapy Gets Challenging




I often find myself telling clients that things may feel worse before they feel better.


Therapy isn’t easy to describe. It’s not like a manicure where the results are immediate. It’s more like a workout: requires effort to get there, hard work when you are in the room and takes commitment both personal and financial. Unlike a personal trainer, however, I can’t promise the client an endorphin rush after every session!


Recent research has shown it is mainly the relationship between the client and therapist which facilitates change. It takes time to develop trust. But once trust is established, change can happen at a deeper level. Even knowing that what we say is confidential it can still be difficult, to be honest at times.


It’s not easy to explore and share how we feel. At the beginning of the therapeutic relationship, the therapist can feel like the stranger they truly are. Why would we want to tell someone we don’t know our inner thoughts and feelings? It doesn’t feel natural, especially knowing very little about the therapist in such a one-sided relationship.


But counselling works as a result of the therapist maintaining their boundaries in the relationship ie keeping some distance so they do not feel like our friend but work professionally so that we feel safe and looked after objectively and competently.


There are periods during therapy when it can feel challenging. This is the tough part: becoming vulnerable in the consulting room is uncomfortable and can make us feel anxious, but if we are able to explore these difficult moments we can learn so much from them. If we are able to hang in there, and trust in the therapist and the process things will eventually shift.


Like fitness training, in psychodynamic therapy, things may need to feel worse before they get better. But we need to hold on to the fact that “this too shall pass” and that it is worth going through the challenging times to come out the other side with more awareness, understanding, and the ability to live a fulfilling life with more satisfying relationships.




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