Have you ever heard someone say this? Perhaps you've felt that way yourself after just a few sessions with that therapist you never went back to. Sometimes the counselor you chose just isn't a good match--but sometimes that feeling that things are getting worse is about something deeper. And it's not a bad thing.
How can that be good? Well, people usually come to counseling because of some sort of crisis. Maybe there's a problem with a relationship, or a tough life transition, or something in our past that we want to work through. Maybe you find yourself stuck in habits, patterns, or relationship cycles that just aren't working, but you can't break out of. But these sorts of things never exist in a vacuum; they are part of complex stories that are packed full of emotion, and those emotions can often be painful.
Everybody learns to survive the disappointments and tragedies of life somehow. As we go on and find ways to cope, we develop a persona that's built to endure. We endure by denying our emotions or stuffing them deep down. Perhaps we become intimidating, withdrawn, or otherwise armored in such a way that keeps others from coming too close. We get so good at this we even start to forget the pain is there. But it is there, subtly working its way out of the past into our story today.
These are the things that begin to come to the surface in counseling. Pain we may not have been aware of--maybe even for years--suddenly becomes apparent as our defenses come down in the safety of the counseling relationship. Things aren't actually getting worse. You've just begun to feel again. The great news is that, by being willing to feel, you're beginning the journey of healing the pain rather than stuffing or denying it, and letting it derail your life.
We don't engage the pain just for the sake of suffering. We press on through because happiness and health are on the other side.
New to therapy? Learn more about the counseling journey at a free face-to-face consultation.
Mike Ensley, MA, LPCC is a professional counselor in Loveland, CO.