Therapy can be Underwhelming
Updated: Jun 24
Therapy is an investment. Not just financially, but also in time, energy, and commitment. The therapeutic process is slow, it’s often difficult, sometimes even painful. With such an investment, dedicating your time, efforts and energy to a difficult process, you may be expecting a grand “ah-ha moment”. A moment where it all comes together, and you feel a huge return on your investment.
I tell you this only so you feel prepared; this may not happen.
There may not be a big light bulb moment, a shift so instant that you feel immediately better and all of the things that had been bothering you have suddenly disappeared. This may feel disappointing; infuriating at worst; underwhelming at best. Afterall, didn’t you just work so hard hoping for big change? If you think about it, in many cases maladaptive behaviours or coping mechanisms have likely taken your lifetime to develop. They are ingrained in us so strongly that they are automatic, like the worn out carpet at the front door with years and years of treading through. Unlearning and relearning more adaptive behaviours and strategies is going to be a long and arduous process. It takes patience and persistence…and time. I’m always asking my clients to focus on small degrees of change. Like the cliche says, slow and steady wins the race.
So, if there is no big “ah-ha moment”, then what?
What’s more likely to happen, is with small, incremental changes over time, you could start to notice that you are responding differently in situations which may have made you angry, or you are more forgiving of yourself when you make a mistake, or you are sleeping through the night and feeling rested when you wake up. You may feel increasingly confident, your relationships feel better, your connections with people are stronger, or maybe you feel more at peace when you are alone.
It may also start to feel less of a way; an absence of irritability, reduced symptoms of anxiety, or decreased amounts of stress. Life may have more of an ease to it, a calmness, less intrusive or disruptive thoughts and more joy or enjoyment.
Investing in therapy is an investment in yourself. You have to do the hard work, you have to stay committed to your own process, and a lot of that work happens outside of therapy, in between sessions. As a therapist, I would encourage you to focus on the process, and not the outcome. The work happens in the process. The subtle changes may not be obvious at first. They may sneak up on you and it might take a moment of self-reflection for you to notice; ‘huh, I would have reacted to a situation like this in a particular way before. This is different.” You may wonder where your big ‘ah-ha’ moment is. Let me assure you, it’s perfectly normal not to have one.