What does good therapy feel like?

I have had therapy myself and I have to say it is truly an incredible experience, being able to open up to another human being who is totally on your side, who is completely authentic and non-judgmental is one of the best experiences I have encountered.  


I'm going to be honest with you, I did feel worse to start with. It's like opening up a wound, it can feel quite dark at times but after all the hidden and dark emotions come to the surface, you will feel much better.

This is why therapy can be long-term work. I was in therapy for three years and even now, I go back every now and again as I cannot think of a single person in my life who would openly listen, without judgement, and really hear and understand what I am truly trying to say.

When the therapist gently challenges my thoughts, it can feel at times like that wound is stinging but by gently challenging my thoughts it helps me to see things in a new way and not only grows my intellectual intelligence but my emotional intelligence too.

Therapists do not tell you what to do, they keep firm boundaries with their clients and do not rescue you. In fact, they encourage you to rescue yourself. Your therapist is not your friend but the therapeutic relationship between the therapist and yourself is unique to anything else you will experience.

I totally trust my therapist and know that everything I tell them is confidential and they only talk of their own experiences when they know it will help me. A little bit of self-disclosure from my therapist keeps me grounded and reminds me that they are only human too and if I have made a mistake in my life their little bit of self-disclosure helps me to feel like I'm not being judged and helps me realise that I am not on my own. I feel validated and recognise my feelings are totally normal.

I never cease to be amazed at how much better I feel after a therapy session. Once the really uncomfortable work had been done, I felt so much more confident and self-assured in myself.

I think when you grow in self-awareness you get far more of those "aha" moments and it feels like your energy has been lifted up to a whole new level that you did not even know existed. You can see the whole picture rather than fumbling about in the dark.

It is important to point out that your therapist does not have a magic wand. They cannot miraculously wash all your troubles away. The hard work is done by you but the tools I have been given by my therapist have really helped me to move forward with my life.

This is why it is important for you to recognise what sort of therapist you need for your individual needs. At the beginning of therapy, I needed a person-centred therapist who was willing to not just listen but really hear me. I needed that gentle challenging of my thoughts and I needed that safe and secure space to really understand how I was feeling and bring those feelings up to the surface. I needed to understand what my unconscious processes were so I could be more aware of self-sabotage and love and respect who I was again.

After this, I needed some coping mechanisms and psychoeducation, to build on my intellectual and emotional intelligence so I can live more in the present moment without being triggered by the past. I could build on my resilience and then start thinking ahead to what I wanted my future to look like.

Every now and again I have a therapy session just to talk things through. Life is never going to be problem-free and because I have built up that therapeutic relationship with my therapist, they know me as well as I do, they might even know me better than I know myself so I can attend a therapy session without having to go through my past again with somebody new.

This is why counselling cannot really fix you in one session. It is an ongoing process but choosing a therapist who is integrative has meant that I am able to grow with the one therapist using different aspects of their knowledge depending on my needs as inevitably what my needs were at the beginning of therapy are very different as I progressed along the therapeutic process.

Therapy is hard work. It can be exhausting and you are allowing yourself to be vulnerable on a level you never thought possible. You lay yourself bare without any censoring and allow another human being access to the depths of yourself and the feelings you did not even realise were there. You access the shadow parts of yourself, the parts you don't dare to show to anyone else and all of this is done in the safety of the therapy room.

I am so grateful I went through this therapeutic process because without it I would not be the person I am today. I am a much better version of me. I have lost friends along the way but when I realise how little I was loving and respecting myself by being in those relationships, I realise I have not actually lost anything that was worth holding onto. You also learn to recognise your own faults so you change your own behaviours towards others which strengthens other relationships in your life.

As an integrative counsellor and clinical hypnotherapist myself, I never assume my therapy is over. It is an ongoing process.  New challenges arise in our lives all the time and we never stop learning and growing as individuals. 

Therapy is not always going to feel great.  But if we keep avoiding those feelings, we stop ourselves from learning and growing into the beautiful human beings we are supposed to be. So, give it a go. For some people it is short-term therapy, for others, it's long-term therapy. But one thing is for sure, you will never regret investing in yourself!

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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Ceredigion SY24 & Aberystwyth SY23
Written by Sharon Lees
Ceredigion SY24 & Aberystwyth SY23

I'm Sharon Lees, an integrative Counsellor/psychotherapist and a clinical hypnotherapist working in private practice with adults, children and young people. I work both in person and online. I see my work as my vocation and prefer to work with each client individually depending on their own individual needs. I have a wide and varied client group.

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