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)