• Though therapy aims to help you feel better, the journey isn't always straightforward

  • You might find difficult emotions come up as you talk about things, maybe for the first time, says therapist Harriet Frew

  • If you are considering looking for a therapist, you can find one here

I know that 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 is not pleasant. Sadness, anger, despair, and self-loathing dominate your moods and you can almost physically feel these, stirring up a storm inside that you could never have envisaged being there. 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 that every day recently has felt like another Everest to climb and just get through. You can’t even see beyond base camp and where the path is going. And how hard it is to trust that 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 is like for you?

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

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

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

Before you run away, please do pause, breathe and 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 recognise that therapy is exceptionally difficult at times. It is understandable that you might want to run away and hide to protect yourself. That is okay. You don’t have to conceal your apprehension or fears. At times, we all feel unsafe and unsure.

I appreciate that it is not easy to experience distressing feelings, whilst trusting that this is going to be a helpful undertaking to do. I understand that you might feel ashamed or upset in opening up to me. Maybe you haven’t been able to bring your whole self to relationships before due to fear of judgement or criticism. You may fear if I can fully accept you and metaphorically hold you in the counselling relationship. It is not surprising that you may have doubts.

Some of your feelings and thoughts may have been buried for a very 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 very beginning of healing.

I will not always get it right, but I will endeavour 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 – this actually then allows 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 is often only when you look back on therapy, that you begin to notice how far you have come. So hang on in there with all the hope, faith and belief you can muster. It will be worth it.

Further reading

In therapy: why you might feel worse before you feel better

Therapy helped me find the right relationship

EMDR therapy transformed my life

Which type of therapy is right for me?