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Risks and Benefits of Therapy

People decide to start therapy for a wide variety of reasons. Whatever the reason, though, it usually boils down to wanting better – or at least wanting to feel better.  Therapy can be very effective in helping people accomplish just that.  Therapy can be a place to learn about yourself, to gain perspective, and to learn new ways of thinking about and interacting with the world.  Because of this, therapy isn’t generally thought of as a “risky” kind of thing to do.  Even though it’s much more likely that therapy will be beneficial, it does bring about a certain amount of risk that should be considered – if for no other reason than to understand that it might not be easy. I’ll first outline what a few of those risks are and then close with the benefits (that I think highly outweigh the potential of any risks involved).

Risks:

1 – Therapy can sometimes make you feel worse (initially) – the therapy process often involves discussing events from your past or other things in your life that are difficult to talk about.  This can bring up unwanted feelings and emotional pain that may linger beyond the therapy session and into your week. On top of that, digging deep into emotional issues and painful memories can bring up things you’ve forgotten about and would rather not think about.  The good news is that the discomfort involved often means that some real healing is taking place. Emotional pain sometimes gets worse before it gets better.

2 – Therapy can promote change. You might be wondering why this is considered potentially risky. Let me explain.  Therapy often promotes personal development and positive changes that impact all areas of life.  As we grow and change, relationships change. We make moves and do things differently.  Although the ultimate goal is for improved functioning and healthier relationships, this change can bring about resistance from others.  Decisions made during the therapy process might mean having to make hard decisions about your career, friendships, and intimate relationships. Change – even good change – can be difficult and bring about a whole new set of challenges to work through.

3 – As you begin the process of self-discovery, you might not always like what you find.  Learning about yourself can be hard. As you take a self-inventory, explore strengths/weaknesses, and take accountability for who you are as a human being, you sometimes gain insights that are difficult to accept.  The positive in all of this is that the difficult insights gained are necessary for understanding oneself and what needs to be done to make appropriate changes.

4 – You might hear things you don’t want to hear. An important element of therapy, at least in my opinion, is that of honesty.  Just as honesty is important for the role of the client, it is important for the Therapist to be honest about observations (and questions they are asked) in order to help one grow.  This might mean being challenged and having to hear things that bring up a certain level of discomfort and resistance.

5 – You might not find the right Therapist right away.  One of the things I emphasize regularly in my blogs is the crucial importance of finding the right Therapist – one that you you feel comfortable with and that has an approach (and the knowledge) to competently deal with the issues you are wanting to resolve. Although there’s a lot we can do to improve chances of finding the right therapist before we make an initial appointment, we don’t always know for sure if we’ve found the right fit until after the first couple of sessions. By then, you may have already shared a lot about yourself and your story.  It can be daunting to think about having to start all over again. This, unfortunately, prevents some people from going back to therapy. You can read more here about how to find the best Therapist for you.

6 – You might REALLY like your Therapist.  It’s important that you like the person you’re working with, that you can relate to them on some basic levels, and that you feel comfortable with them.  What’s the problem with liking your Therapist, you might ask?  Well, through the process of therapy you build a kind of unique relationship with your Therapist that may be unlike any other relationship in your life.  You might share about yourself at depths you haven’t with anybody else in your life and build a sort of lasting connection.  Because resolving issues that eventually lead to the end of therapy is typically the ultimate goal, this means that at some point the relationship will probably end.  For some people, this brings about a sense of loss.  Fortunately, as you prepare to end the process of therapy, this is something that can be discussed and gradually prepared for.

Benefits:

Having put such a large emphasis on potential risks, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the risks (and potential discomfort involved in Therapy) are well-worth taking on.  Therapy can lead to a large range of benefits that may include:

  • Improved mood
  • Increased Self-Esteem and Confidence
  • Better relationships
  • Increased ability to achieve goals
  • New and improved perspective and ways of thinking about the world
  • Increased ability to deal with stress
  • Resolution of past issues
  • Greater self-awareness
  • Improved health
  • Cathartic Relief by having a neutral person to talk to
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Increased sense of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment
  • Improved ways of coping with life’s difficulties
  • Better sleep
  • Increase in good habits and decrease in bad habits
  • Resolution of shame, guilt, and regret
  • Potential to conquer fears
  • Higher career satisfaction
  • Increased assertiveness
  • Better ability to manage anger in a healthy way

If you’re considering starting therapy but aren’t sure where to start, you can send us a message and we can walk you though the process.  You can also call or text 727-258-5231.

Joel Schmidt, MA, LMHC

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