Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Ryan Howes: Shouldn’t Psychotherapy Make Me Feel Good?

Ryan Howes pens a very important post in his “Psychology Today” blog, “Shouldn’t Psychotherapy Make Me Feel Good?” Because I’ve often walked away from therapy with a horrible knot in my stomach that I didn’t have prior to sitting down on the couch. Just like the relief we sometimes feel when he catch an “aha!” moment, that weight or pinching of the stomach is also an indication that therapy is working, or that that we’re facing our issues. Visit his blog by clicking here. I’ve excerpted a few paragraphs.



A common misunderstanding about therapy is that its function is to help us “feel better” each week. Many equate psychotherapy with the day spa where we enter with tension and leave feeling relaxed and refreshed. Sometimes this is the case. But much of the time we leave with a greater understanding of the gravity, severity and prevalence of our issues. We think we have one problem but realize we have five. This doesn’t always feel better; it can feel much worse.


In the first few sessions the therapist and client are getting to know one another and explore the issues. If there’s a good connection between them, clients often feel relieved, supported and hopeful. The issue they’ve held inside is finally being addressed, the therapist seems to care and understand without judgment, and there’s a real sense that progress can be made. This feels good.


As the work continues, things often get worse before they get better. In his book The Heart of Psychotherapy, psychologist George Weinberg writes:

“In the course of psychotherapy, we help the person see the generality of his problem…As patients see, ‘This problem is more pervasive than I thought,’ they are occasionally disheartened somewhat…And to the extent that the problem was broader than they thought, the gain is greater when it is resolved.” (p. 18)

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  • Cheryl Fuller, PhD

    To quote C.G. Jung:
    “The principle aim of psychotherapy is not to transport one to an impossible state of happiness, but to help the patient acquire steadfastness and patience in the face of suffering. ”

  • Tracy Kronowitt

    This helps. My parents are always concerned at how much worse I seem to get at times with psychotherapy. I also am concerned about it but I realize that I generally seem to wind up stronger in the long run so I guess “no pain means no gain” in psychotherapy.

  • Leeann

    Could this also happen in a person’s Psy Dr. appointment as well? This week I met with him as well as my casemanager and discussed my bipolar/depression and what has been going on in my life. I left shaking and very nervous, granted we discussed some sensitive issues on the home front but never before was I so anxious and shaky as I was in the 7 years I have been going there. Yes I usually get upset but we work through things but this time I was actually afraid to leave the SAFE environment I was in. That is what I call the facility I go to. I don’t understand this!!!!
    Could you please let me know by emailing me if possible I know you are very busy so when ever you have the time if you do at all.
    Thank You and God Bless

  • Dunga

    Not only that, but resolving issues and getting them handled takes a lot of work. It can leave you mentally exhausted as well as disillusioned, upset, etc. While I prefer hypnosis to psychotherapy, I have very much come to similar conclusions as Theresa.
    Thanks for posting this.

  • mlh

    I am going to start psycotherapy hopefully soon for anxiety disorder, social phobia and ptsd. I know I have to. I have been dealing with this for over 30 years and can not function fully on a regular basis, something always freaks me out for weeks. I have just lost my job. Where do people like us work? I only have myself for financial support.

  • SuzanneWA

    One-on-one psychotherapy seems to work the best for me. If I get in group therapy, I have a tendency to be empathic, and feel the “vibrations” of everyone there. This has sometimes (more often than not)left me feeling anxious and angry at the facilitator for not recognizing the REAL problem that one of the other’s may not recognize. When I just have the therapist and myself, if I feel she’s getting too close to a negative reaction in me (usually “digging” to find something that may be true), I become defensive, and all my body language is evident. I try to bring the subject back to where I’m comfortable, so as not to “anger” my theapist. She knows when I get this way, and “digs” some more. These are the times that I feel psychotherapy is NOT conducive to a positive reaction or breakthrough. I KNOW I’m not perfect, but I, too, can recognize my weaknesses without having them rammed down my throat. There’s a delicate balance between bringing out the truth and hitting one over the head with it. On the whole, though, I am left with a LOT to think about after my sessions.

  • Your Name

    I have never really been to psychotherapy. I went to a Psychiatrist once after a man in a ski mask broke into my apt., raped and almost strangled me. The police came to see me the following day because they thought he was a serial rapist that had been victimizing women in my area. I could not answer most of their questions and the Dr. later told me that I would remember what happened as I could deal with it. He was right; except for one small detail (did he have gloves on), it all came back to me.
    That brings me to my first question…are some bad memories not supposed to resurface until you can deal with them? Why force it?
    Question 2…Except for certain cases where the patient is on meds and needs to be monitored doesn’t the constant discussion of what is mentally ailing you perpetuate them?

  • Beverly hills psychotherapy

    That makes a lot of sense! I had sort of wondered why I felt that way but that does make a lot of sense. Thanks for posting this!

  • Beverley HillsTherapist

    I think some memories should be resurfaced, no matter how traumatic, if they are buried away, its just excess baggage affecting your subconscious mind, and can affect youu wellbeing in life… memories/ buried feelings are like trash in the bottom of your handbag, eventually they will need to be talked about so that you are clear!

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