It’s Gonna Hurt Bad Before It Gets Better


I recently had my first therapy session with a real client.   Those exciting 50 minutes in session and the supervision that came afterwards brought me to a surprising conclusion: being a therapist will teach me more than I can ever hope to teach my clients.  My client got to tell her problems to someone who cares, but I got incredible insight into my own feelings, fears, and ways of viewing the world.

What I wanted to do in that session was wave my magic wand and make all of my client’s problems go away.  After all, I became a therapist to help people.  So I sugarcoated her problems and told her everything she was experiencing was “totally normal”.  A novice mistake, because in my heart I was trying to protect my client.  What I didn’t realize until my supervisors pointed it out, is that I was trying to keep her from seeing the reality of her problems.  I’m afraid to make my client worse—to make her even sadder than she was before coming to me.  What I failed to realize in session is that things need to get worse before they get better.  I hated to admit it, because getting worse scares me.  But when I took a few moments to think about why things need to get worse, I realized this really is a true part of life.  Even Keith Urban knows there is a lot of pain involved in recovering from heartache.  As I’m reminded by his song Tonight I Wanna Cry, “It’s gonna hurt bad before it gets better, but I’ll never get over you by hidin’ this way.”

It’s amazing what country music and a little therapy can teach you, right?! Check out the song:

So… Here are my discoveries about why getting worse makes you better:

  • Hitting Rock Bottom– Nothing motivates people to change like hitting rock bottom.  One of the top reasons alcoholics get sober and maintain change is because they have reached an extremely low point in their life (Matzger, Kaskutas, & Weisner, 2005).  I have seen this with addicts, especially, but it fits for most everyone.  When we realize how different our life is from the way we want it to be, we are inspired to change and work towards becoming our ideal self.
  • Working Out– Getting the life you want is a lot like exercising.  The first step is getting to the gym.  Once you are there, you can sit on the bench or you can push yourself on the treadmill.  If you go for the treadmill, it’s going to be tough.  You will have to exert a lot of energy, and you will probably be sore for the next few days.  But with time, you’ll get better at completing your workouts, and your body will be happier and healthier.  Our relationships can be the same way.  Working on a relationship is hard, and sometimes it is painful.  But in the end, our work pays off and we have happier, healthier lives.

Getting worse can be scary, but sugarcoating my client’s situation is only holding her back from reaching her true potential.  Like Keith Urban says, “it’s gonna hurt bad before it gets better.”  But if we go through the difficult and painful steps involved in changing, it will get better.

Thanks for reading!

Matzger, H., Kaskutas, L. A. and Weisner, C. (2005), Reasons for drinking less and their relationship to sustained remission from problem drinking. Addiction, 100: 1637–1646. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2005.01203.x


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