Therapy can be a powerful tool for improving mental health and overall well-being. It offers a safe space to explore emotions, confront past traumas, and develop coping strategies. However, it's not uncommon for some individuals to experience a temporary worsening of their emotional state after therapy sessions. If you've ever wondered, "Why do I feel worse after therapy?" you're not alone.
In this blog post, we'll explore 10 possible reasons for this phenomenon and provide strategies to help you cope with it.
1. Unearthing suppressed emotions
One of the primary goals of therapy is to delve into deep-seated emotions and experiences. Sometimes, this process can unearth suppressed feelings and memories, causing temporary distress. Remember that
**How to cope:** Facing these emotions is a crucial step toward healing. Talk to your therapist about your discomfort. They can guide you through the process while providing support and coping techniques.
2. Confronting painful truths
Therapy often involves confronting uncomfortable truths about yourself, relationships, or past experiences. This can be emotionally challenging, and it's normal to feel worse before you start feeling better.
**How to cope:** Trust the therapeutic process, and keep in mind that growth often requires facing difficult truths. Discuss your feelings with your therapist to gain clarity and support.
3. Increased self-awareness
Becoming more self-aware can be unsettling, as it may reveal aspects of yourself or your life that you weren't fully conscious of before therapy. This newfound awareness can initially cause distress.
**How to cope:** Give yourself time to adjust to this heightened self-awareness. Journaling or mindfulness exercises can help you process your thoughts and feelings.
4. Emotional exhaustion
Therapy can be emotionally draining, especially when dealing with intense topics. Feeling worse afterward may be a sign that you've expended emotional energy during the session.
**How to cope:** Allow yourself time to rest and recover after therapy. Engage in self-care activities like meditation, reading, or spending time in nature.
5. Change is uncomfortable
Therapy often involves making changes in thought patterns, behaviors, and relationships. Change can be uncomfortable, as it challenges the familiar, even if it's for the better.
**How to cope:** Embrace discomfort as a sign of personal growth. Discuss your apprehensions with your therapist, and work together to create manageable steps toward change.
6. Loss of defense mechanisms
Therapy can lead to a dismantling of unhealthy coping mechanisms or defense mechanisms. Losing these protective layers can leave you feeling vulnerable and raw.
**How to cope:** Develop new, healthier coping strategies with the guidance of your therapist to replace the old ones.
7. Resurfacing of trauma
Working through past traumas is a crucial aspect of therapy, but it can trigger painful memories and emotions. This can leave you feeling worse initially.
**How to cope:** Trust the process, and remember that healing is a journey. Your therapist can help you navigate trauma in a safe and supportive way.
8. Unresolved conflicts
Therapy may uncover unresolved conflicts in your personal or interpersonal relationships. These conflicts can stir up distress and turmoil.
**How to cope:** Address conflicts one step at a time, either in therapy or through open and honest communication with the involved parties.
9. Fear of change
Even when we desperately want to change, there can be an underlying fear of the unknown. Feeling worse after therapy may stem from the fear of leaving your comfort zone.
**How to cope:** Acknowledge your fear, and work with your therapist to create a plan for gradual, manageable change.
10. Unrealistic expectations
Sometimes, feeling worse after therapy can be the result of unrealistic expectations. Improvement takes time, and therapy is a process with ups and downs.
**How to cope:** Adjust your expectations, and remind yourself that healing and growth are not linear processes. Celebrate small victories along the way.
Feeling worse after therapy is a common experience, but it doesn't mean therapy isn't working. In fact, it often signifies that you are addressing deep-rooted issues and making progress. Remember that therapy is a journey, and the road to healing can be bumpy. Communicate openly with your therapist, practice self-compassion, and give yourself the time and space to heal and grow. Ultimately, the discomfort you may feel in the short term can lead to long-term emotional well-being and resilience.
If you live in PA, NJ or NY and want to start therapy, reach out here to schedule a free 15 minute intro call and see if we make a good fit!