I Regressed … Am I Letting My Therapist Down?
By Kendall Raymond ACSW
An observed trend in the practice of psychotherapy is where clients apologize for finding themselves back at square one with their symptoms. Whether a recent crisis plunged them into a new depressive episode, they ceased using their learned coping strategies, their panic attack got the best of them, or they reconnected with an abuser, clients often shame themselves for being imperfect and worry that their therapist will somehow think less of them for being human. Relapse is not an unusual occurrence in the therapeutic journey, nor is it a reflection of a person’s worth. In times of regressing to lower levels of functioning, clients will emotionally beat themselves up by believing that all previously achieved progress in their treatment is cancelled out, anticipating that their therapist will abandon them out of disappointment. A doctor would never say to her patient, “You’re bleeding way too much for my taste and I don’t see a reason why I should try to help you anymore. Good luck finding your next physician!” so why would a mental health professional do the same?
A therapist’s role is to objectively reveal strengths and pitfalls alike, but to never hold mistakes against their clients by taking their symptom regression personally. The biggest question is not what your therapist thinks, but rather, what do you think about how you handle your shortcomings? How do you forgive yourself for making mistakes? If you had the opportunity to do it over again, what would you do differently? Messing up is the inescapable truth of what it means to be human, but learning to effectively recover from struggles cannot be dependent upon receiving a gold star from one’s therapist – it has to come from within. The next time you face a challenge or make a misstep, I encourage you to show yourself a little grace by embracing your imperfections and seek to do better in the future