3 Side Effects of Therapy That No One Talks About.

The benefits of getting professional counseling are pretty known. Some benefits are learning to stand up for yourself, lowering symptoms of depression and anxiety, better handling your anger, increasing your self-esteem and improving your relationships.

But therapy also has other side effects that people don’t really talk about. Here are three of the most common ones.

Some of your relationships might end.

It’s very common for friendships or romantic relationships to have problems or even end after starting therapy. Just because you are working on yourself and growing as a person, it doesn’t mean that everyone around you is as well. As you work on yourself, you’ll start to see things that you didn’t notice before, such as how immature or negative certain people are.

Of course not all relationships are affected in a negative way. Just know that as you change the way you look at things, things around you are going to change.

After some therapy sessions, you may experience intense negative feelings.

Talking about uncomfortable things will bring up feelings that you’ve been ignoring. You were pushing certain feelings down  for a reason…because they made you feel like crap.  Why do you think people talk about changing but not many people are willing to do what it takes? Nobody wants to voluntarily feel bad.

As bad as it may feel, it’s part of changing. I like to use the analogy of washing a dirty pot. At first it gets really dirty as the grease and stuck on food comes off. But as you keep rinsing it, it gets cleaner and cleaner. As you work on changing negative feelings, there will be a point where it gets “dirty”. But don’t give up, it does get better.

You may be given the wrong diagnosis.

When you use your health insurance for therapy, you must be given a diagnosis. Diagnosis are given by assessing history and symptoms. A correct diagnosis rules out any physical reasons for problems, such as making sure thyroid levels are normal.

Because there is no brain scan or blood test that tell us what the diagnosis is, we only go by what is being reported. A correct diagnosis will look at the whole picture of your life; health, history, recent changes, etc. and not just a snap shot. When unsure, we are trained to give the least harmful diagnosis.

If you’re given the wrong diagnosis you can start wrongly identifying with it which can be harmful. For example, being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder when your thyroid was not normal or birth control pills had your hormones all over the place. Then blaming your actions on you “being bipolar”.


These “warnings” are part of the informed consent when you first start therapy.  Just reading these side effects can make therapy seem scary, and sometimes it is. But the benefits of therapy out weight the side effects. Make sure you discuss some of these concerns with  your therapist.


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About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in Lehigh Valley, PA.



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