This therapy stuff is hard!

Picture this - you're in therapy and things are seeming harder than they did before you started. "What is the point in this?" "I should never have started," may run through your mind. It sure did with me during my personal therapy and it sure has with clients I work with. Hear me out before you take action and stop therapy...


Growth can be painful

The process of growth can be painful. A personal trainer once told me that muscles hurt because they are being torn slightly and then repaired - because they are growing, they are changing. 

This hit me! It resonated so much. Our emotional and personal growth and change can be just like this - sore and uncomfortable. Just like our muscles, we hurt and we repair and then that feeling becomes the norm. 

A lot of my clients at one point throughout their sessions have said to me that exploring things is painful, that change is painful. They are right, it can be. At this point, we can find ourselves wanting to escape and get rid of the pain and can sometimes want to stop therapy. 

The thing is, sometimes we cope with difficult situations by not talking about them, by ignoring them or by accepting, "This is just how it is and I have to put up with it". When we come into therapy sessions, we begin to explore these things. It brings it all to the surface, it causes emotional waves and pain/hurt/sadness/anger is allowed to come up. So it can seem like things are worse than before you started. 

We aren't denying the pain here, we are recognising that maybe it's OK in this circumstance, maybe we can tolerate the discomfort, maybe we can be soft with the pain like we would with our muscles. Maybe, just like our muscles, it's a part of the uncomfortable process of changing. 

What to do about the pain

  1. When we fight against something, it can take a hold of us more. Think quicksand. When we are still, recognise it, acknowledge it, it can flow through us more easily. So notice that you're uncomfortable and that it's painful and share this with your therapist (or someone you trust).
  2. Remember you can do hard and painful things. We don't have to be happy, joyful and pain-free to be the person we want to be and act the way we want to act. We can still choose to be that person even when pain shows up. 
  3. Notice the pain in your body. If it feels comfortable for you, notice what part of your body reacts when you are experiencing uncomfortable and painful feelings during therapy. If you can, breathe down into that part of your body - imagine your breath going to that exact spot. 
  4. Think of the most compassionate person you know (personally or a well-known figure), imagine what they'd say to you when you were in pain. Hear their words, feel their presence with you. 
  5. Know that this is normal and common. Doesn't make the pain go away, but may make it less scary.

So, the point of this article is to remind you that therapy can be painful and hard. That's OK, it can be part of the change process (just like those muscles tearing and repairing). You can do hard things. Your therapist is right alongside you. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Orpington BR5 & London SW19
Written by Lisa Ume, BABCP (Accredited), CBT, PGDip (Accredited), B.Sc (Hons)
Orpington BR5 & London SW19

Lisa is a Psychotherapist trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Her approach is to be alongside you, exploring what's difficult and to help you continue to move towards a life that you're happy with. She works online so you can access sessions from anywhere.

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