The Difference Between Good Therapy and Great Therapy

Article by Dr. Kyler Shumway

Video by Dr. Sydnor Sikes

What’s the difference between good therapy and great therapy?

Those who’ve experienced both (like me!) can tell you.  

Good therapy feels good!  Good therapists provide safe spaces for you to feel seen and heard, empathically attune to your inner world, and offer suggestions for making practical improvements to your life.  Good therapy can help you overcome obstacles in life and find relief from daily stressors and struggles.  Many people get what they need from good therapy, but some need something a bit deeper, a bit more.

Great therapy, however, doesn’t always feel good.  Great therapy often brings up deeper pain – the aches and pains that sit at the bottom of your heart and bleeds into all areas of life.  Great psychotherapists and counselors will gently guide you through emotional sores and injuries, much like how great masseuses will push on sore spots and work on tension deep in your body.

In short, the difference between good and great therapy is whether or not pain is addressed. 

But why?

In Deep Eddy’s latest video, Dr. Sydnor Sikes speaks to the importance of pain, how people contain it, and what makes great therapy great:

No matter what pain life has brought to your story, you don’t have to carry it alone.  You deserve a chance to work with a great therapist, to find freedom from emotional pain, and discover what it truly means to live well. 

Contact us today to get started.

Want to learn more about emotional pain and why it matters in therapy?  Read on!

Why People (Including Some Therapists) Shy Away From Pain

Your body is highly invested in not dying.  Weird, right?

But because of this, anything that threatens your survival must be avoided at all costs.  At least, your short-term survival.  After all, our genetics are set up so that you can live long enough to make a baby and potentially raise it to an age of independence. 

Short-term survival calls for following two rules:

Rule one: Seek comfort.

Rule two: Avoid discomfort.  

You never see monkeys doing pushups or bears doing bicep curls, but it isn’t just because they don’t have a gym membership – it’s because recreational exercise feels unpleasant, and it isn’t important for short-term survival.  Similarly, if you don’t work out and eat healthily, you’ll live.  For now.  Any time someone does something unfamiliar, unpredictable, or unpleasant, it’s like fighting a battle against evolutionary biology. 

So many of us live our lives avoiding discomfort as best we can.  We don’t ask that person on a date, because loneliness feels better than rejection.  We don’t go for a jog because the couch feels better than pounding the pavement.  

Similarly, we try not to think about scary and sad thoughts or feel uncomfortable feelings.  But as Dr. Sikes says in her video, that doesn’t mean those feelings aren’t there.  We just avoid, distract, and run away from the discomfort that sits in the soul – television, alcohol, work, you name it, whatever it takes to keep the pain away.  

But then, the pain shows up in uncontrollable ways.  You may have unprocessed grief from when your father died, which causes you to panic and drink away the fear whenever you are reminded of your own mortality.  You might experience intense work stress because your parents never showed you love outside of your accomplishments, and the fear of failure drives you to push yourself beyond your limits.  All of this happens because the true pain, the deeper pain, hasn’t been addressed.

How to Be With Your Pain and Find Healing

When I first met Dr. Jev Sikes, Deep Eddy co-founder and husband to Dr. Sydnor Sikes, he told me his favorite first question to ask a new client:

Tell me about the heartache.”

Great therapy involves safely guiding someone through painful memories, helping them name and feel their feelings and how they show up in the body, and giving space for the nervous system to integrate, heal, and recover.  Some examples of this might include:

  • Sharing stories from the past and letting yourself feel old feelings
  • Noticing what it feels like to share with another person 
  • Identifying the different aspects of oneself that reacted in those moments
  • Recognizing protective parts of the mind that were born in times of pain
  • Paying attention to how pain presents physically (in the body)
  • Breathing deeply and calming the nervous system when appropriate
  • Completing the narrative to help make sense of the memory in completion
  • Expressing thoughts and feelings on reflection of the past

Although some people can find ways of tapping into emotional pain on their own (e.g., journaling, sojourning, dancing, reflecting), the safest and most effective way to do so is with the help of a great therapist.  

Deep Eddy is a center of healing, learning, and personal transformation.  While we don’t mean to brag, we do believe that our therapists are truly great at what they do, and we know they’d love to work with you.

Contact us today to get started.

Go deep with one of our therapists.