The Mighty Logo

What I Want Tell My Patient Who's Frustrated With Therapy

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I know you feel like giving up right now and as though everything is unravelling. You are suddenly experiencing a heightened awareness of your feelings, and it’s not pleasant. Sadness, anger, despair and self-loathing might dominate your moods, and you can almost physically feel it, cutting like glass through your body and stirring up a storm inside. Pandora’s Box has been opened and you have no idea how to manage the deluge thrown out. You would like to slam it shut again and have it taken away.

I understand recently every day has felt like another Everest to climb. You can’t even see where the path is going. It must be hard to trust someone else is going to help you climb this mountain and support you on the twists and turns. How can anyone else really know what it’s like for you?

When you started therapy, you may have held high hopes I was going to tell you what to do and dispense some sound, constructive advice. It may feel frustrating and disappointing I haven’t come up with the solution. You might wonder if I’m holding back with a golden nugget of information, leaving you stuck and unable to move on. Instead, I’m encouraging you to talk about how you feel and become more accepting of it. If this doesn’t meet your expectations, you might feel dismayed and confused.

Understandably, you desperately wish to be make progress and begin seeing results. Therapy often doesn’t feel like that – more like sand running through your fingers with nothing tangible to cling to. In other areas of your life, when you decided to learn a language or master a skill, you just planned it out and got on with it. Now you’re perplexed as to why you can’t simply transfer that approach to the therapy room.

Before you run away, please pause. Stop to breathe. Be kind to yourself. You have taken an incredibly brave step in wanting to address your current difficulties. Many people never even begin this journey. Acknowledge yourself fully for doing this.

As your therapist, I recognize therapy is exceptionally difficult at times. It’s understandable you might want to run and hide to protect yourself. That’s OK. You don’t have to conceal your apprehension or fears. At times, we all feel unsafe and unsure.

I appreciate it’s not easy to experience distressing feelings while trusting this is going to be helpful. I understand you might feel ashamed or upset in opening up to me. It’s not surprising you may have doubts.

Some of your feelings and thoughts may have been buried for a long time. It can be an extremely uncomfortable ride when we lift the lid and start to explore the contents. Slowly and surely though, at a pace that feels right for you, this can be the beginning of healing.

I will not always get it right, but I will endeavor to be with you and support you on your journey.

As you begin to accept your pain — your shame, your sadness, your upset, your guilt – it will allow you to also tap into your joy, contentment and happiness on a far deeper level than you may ever have experienced before. Freedom to be your true authentic self can be liberating and worth every pitfall along the way.

It’s often only when you look back on therapy that you begin to notice how far you’ve come. So hang in there with all the hope, faith and belief you can muster. I believe it will be worth it.

A version of this post originally appeared on Rethink Your Body.

Originally published: September 21, 2015
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home