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Discomfort: A Natural Part of Therapy

Anyone and everyone who seeks out and engages in therapy is looking for release from some brand of personal suffering, a way out of discomfort. So, when discomfort is claimed as a natural process in psychotherapy, we may be hesitant to dive in, yet with a bit of perseverance we may find that riding the discomfort is exactly what leads us to relief.

Therapists aren’t seeking to create uneasiness for their clients, instead, the natural process of self-examination and self-awareness can bring up feelings and realizations that are difficult to digest. A well-trained and experienced therapist will create a non-judgmental and compassionate space to explore thoughts and feelings around distress. More importantly, when discomfort and difficult emotional states arise in therapy, it is often a sign that the client is brushing up against areas of growth and change.

Discomfort is a place where we are stretched psychologically, territory ripe for personal learning, growth, and accountability. If we stay cocooned in a constant state of ease and comfort, there is no opportunity for expansion. Sitting in the depth of our hardships and struggles with a therapist provides the space to sink in and journey through our challenges rather than to skirt around them. Avoidance of our difficult issues both in and out of therapy creates long-term chronic discomfort and suffering; whereas supported therapeutic discomfort navigated in therapy is temporary and often leads to lasting personal change that permeates all facets of an individual’s life.

Whether you are in individual therapy, couples/marital counseling, or family therapy, know that you will at some point encounter uncomfortable territory that will challenge you to stay present and not turn away. Your therapist is there to hold your hand as you work through these challenges, because they know that when you do what’s waiting on the other side is liberation from the struggles. American writer and philosopher, Joseph Campbell, summed it up best when he wrote, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”.

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