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  • Writer's pictureKennedy McLean

Working With Shame In Psychotherapy

Recognizing Shame

Guilt is often confused with shame they are, however, two distinct feelings. Guilt is the feeling of knowing that we have done something wrong, something that we may consider to be bad, or that is against our core values.

Shame, on the other hand, is based upon a distorted sense of oneself as being unworthy, damaged, or a failure. It is the feeling that “I am bad” or “there is something inherently wrong with me as a person.” Brene Brown has stated that shame is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

Shame can manifest itself in a variety of ways, leading to self-doubt, a decrease in self-esteem, depression and anxiety. Many of us experience the negative effects of shame without even realizing how much we are being negatively affected.

Due to the nature of therapy and the fact that clients are often experiencing psychological difficulties or mental illness, shame is often present. Many of the reasons that bring people to therapy are the source of stigma, and unsuccessful attempts to resolve these problems have resulted in feelings of shame.

Clients often want to quickly “fix” the issues that bring them to therapy. However, the importance of developing a supportive, validating, empathic, and affectively attuned relationship cannot be emphasized enough.

One of the main goals of therapy is to create a safe, collaborative atmosphere. Once a sense of safety is established, clients can slowly allow themselves to verbalize those experiences that induce shame. As a therapist, I want to understand what is underneath. By acknowledging and experiencing these painful feelings, we allow for growth and healing to occur.

Becoming comfortable discussing shame is no easy task, it is also not the end of the journey in therapy. There are many ways that therapists work with clients to regulate shame. While the idea of therapy often provokes experiences of shame, most clients who have engaged in the therapeutic process have agreed that the benefit was worth it.

If you have been struggling with feelings of shame and low self-worth, reach out to book a consultation and see if therapy seems like the right choice for you.

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About Kennedy

Kennedy has been working in the field of addiction and mental health for 10 years. She currently runs a virtual private practice treating clients throughout Ontario.   

Kennedy's practice currently focuses on trauma, attachment, couples therapy. Associate therapists work with people of all ages experiencing a wide range of concerns such as stress, depression, anxiety, relationship distress, and grief for example.

Anything written in blog posts are the thoughts of Kennedy. They are intended to offer information that may be interesting or useful for contemplation.


Nothing written is intended to be a substitute for seeking professional help.

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