Side Effects of Psychotherapy

I am a therapist and I believe in the power of therapy to alleviate suffering and contribute to people’s quality of life. I have seen it happen many times. In this post I would like to discuss some of the potential risks of therapy, these potential side effects are not widely discussed.

  1. Dependence: Some clients start to depend on their therapist for every decision they need to make.

A related issue is when the client effectively channels the therapist in his everyday interactions with friends and family. When the client overly identifies with the therapist it can lead to awkward social interactions and impedes the quest of the clients in finding their own voice. It is up to the therapist to point out excessive dependence, to explore its meaning and to prevent it.

  1. Reliance on the connection with the therapist as a sole resource to meet emotional needs, instead of expanding a support network. Therapy should help a person improve their social skills, expand their social network and not serve as a substitute.
  2. Not knowing when to terminate therapy: I have heard countless stories about patients wanting to stop therapy, and well-intended therapists have convinced them to stay. My policy is clear. I greatly respect the clients’ wishes to terminate therapy. There are times at which I initiate the discussion on stopping therapy. Similar to the role of a parent, there often comes a point that the client needs to be gently pushed out to stand on their own two feet.
  3. Expense. – This is probably the most recognized issue. .The money that you pay towards therapy, may prevent you from pursuing other activities that could improve your quality of life, and contribute to your growth as a person.
  4. Time – the time and energy you invest in therapy, could have been spent with loved ones, on meaningful activities that could contribute to your quality of life. No, I do not recommend avoiding psychotherapy, if you could benefit from it. I work as psychotherapist because I believe in the benefits of this approach. There is a large body of empirical evidence that supports the benefits of therapy, for specific concerns  above and beyond what medication alone can offer.

However:

It is OK to gauge whether there is a fit between you and your provider.

It is OK to check from time to time with your provider about the approach, directions, goals and the need for continuation.

It is OK to weigh the benefits of psychotherapy against the cost – what does it prevent you from doing because of the investment in both time and money.

It is OK to see your provider on less than a weekly basis, or as needed – provided it works for both of you.

My policy on terminating therapy is that if a client decides to quit therapy, I do not try to dissuade them unless there is a clear indication of danger.  I do check with the client whether they wish to stop therapy

 

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