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Can psychotherapy make you worse?

Can psychotherapy make you worse?

Can Psychotherapy Make You Worse?

Psychotherapy is often seen as a benign, if not beneficial, process. However, recent research has demonstrated that in some cases, psychotherapy can actually make a person’s condition worse. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that, on average, approximately 10 per cent of patients who undergo psychotherapy become worse after starting therapy.

While this figure may seem small, it does indicate that it is possible for psychotherapy to have a negative effect on some people. This is an important finding as it shows that psychotherapy is not an infallible solution to mental health issues, and that people should be aware of the risks before starting therapy.

Why Does Psychotherapy Make Some People Worse?

So, why does psychotherapy make some people worse? There are several possible explanations. One is that not all psychotherapists are equal in terms of skill and effectiveness. In other words, there are good therapists and not-so-good therapists. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine which is which until you have had a few sessions.

Another possible explanation is that some people may be more vulnerable to the negative effects of psychotherapy than others. For example, people who are already struggling with mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, may be more likely to experience a worsening of their symptoms during therapy. This may be due to the fact that these people are already in an emotionally fragile state, and that the process of psychotherapy can be emotionally challenging.

It is also possible that some people may not be suitable for psychotherapy, or that the type of therapy they are receiving is not the best fit for them. For instance, some therapies may be more suitable for certain personalities than others. If a person is receiving a type of therapy that is not suited to their needs, it is possible that it could make their condition worse.

How to Avoid Making Psychotherapy Worse

So, how can people ensure that psychotherapy does not make their condition worse? The first step is to find a therapist who is experienced and qualified. It is important to choose a therapist who is registered with a professional organisation, such as the British Psychological Society (BPS). This will ensure that they have the necessary qualifications and experience to provide effective therapy.

It is also important to find a therapist who you feel comfortable with. Therapy can be an emotionally intense process, so it is important to find someone who you can trust and feel safe with.

Finally, it is important to be honest with your therapist about your expectations. If you are unsure about the therapy process or feel that it is not working for you, it is important to talk to your therapist about this. They should be able to provide helpful advice and guidance.


In conclusion, while psychotherapy can be beneficial for many people, there is evidence that it can make some people worse. This is why it is important to be aware of the potential risks before starting therapy and to choose a therapist who is experienced and qualified. It is also important to be honest with your therapist about your expectations and to be aware of the signs that therapy may not be working for you. By following these steps, it is possible to reduce the risk of psychotherapy making your condition worse.