What Not to Say To Your Therapist: How To Make The Most Of Your Therapy Sessions
Updated August 27, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Debra Halseth, LCSW
It’s normal to feel a little apprehensive before your first therapy session. You may have a lot of questions about what you should or shouldn’t say to your therapist.
It’s not that you need to be concerned about sharing too much about yourself to your therapist or saying certain phrases wrong. Instead, it’s about learning what can get in the way of you making the most progress on yourself through your therapy sessions. The following information will help you know what you can do to make sure your therapy is effective.
What not to say to your therapist
If you’re wondering how to find a good therapist, it’s important that you start by looking at yourself and your expectations. While the therapist you work with is important, you play a major role in your therapy sessions.
As you approach therapy, there are some things you should know to prepare yourself to get the most out of your sessions. You’ll want to avoid saying the following things so you can maximize the benefits therapy brings.
Lies or half-truths
Talking about personal matters can be difficult to do even when talking to someone that you know well. That can make it feel harder when you’re talking to a complete stranger. You might feel tempted to lie or mislead your therapist because you’re embarrassed to share your true answers and stories. But you should avoid doing that.
If your therapist is starting to touch on something that’s difficult for you, you may want to back off on talking about it. It could be that it’s painful to think about or that you truly feel you don’t know the deeper answers that they’re looking for. But if you only allow them in on half of the information, your progress will be hindered.
It’s your therapist’s goal to help you make progress in the areas that you’re struggling with. And in order for them to do that, they need you, to be honest with them. This doesn’t mean that you need to pour out every detail of your life, but make sure that the information you are sharing is true. Lying or trying to mislead your therapist will make it harder for them to help you. It is okay to say you feel uncomfortable, but try to be honest.
Don’t share only the facts
People can experience the exact same situation and have different responses to it. That means if you’re only sharing the facts of a situation or story with your therapist, they aren’t getting the full picture. It’s important for you to also share your feelings connected with the events.
It will help your therapist understand what you’re saying if you also share with them your feelings around the subject. Did the situation make you sad, angry, or confused? Your therapist has no way of knowing how you felt in a situation unless you tell them.
If you’re not sharing how you felt in a situation because you aren’t clear on it yourself, that’s normal too. It’s okay to share an experience with your therapist and let them know that you’re unsure how to feel about it. This opens the door for them to talk to you about it and for you to explore your feelings around it. It’s also okay for you to ask your therapist to avoid exploring a subject for a certain amount of time. Healing should happen at a pace you are comfortable with.
“Can I get a prescription?”
There are many medications that can be prescribed to help people with mental health challenges like anxiety and depression. However, medication is not the right solution for each person. If you’re only seeing a therapist in order to get a prescription, you’re missing the true benefit of therapy. And you may not be able to get the medication you’re after.
Psychologists are unable to write prescriptions. There are some who work with psychiatrists or doctors that are able to handle that portion of treatment. On the other hand, while psychiatrists can write prescriptions, they often don’t provide counseling. So if you make a counseling appointment because you’re hoping for a prescription, you may end up seeing the wrong specialist.
Even if medication is an effective form of treatment for the challenges that you’re dealing with, it’s often helpful to use it along with psychotherapy or other types of therapy. The American Psychological Association shares that different combinations of treatment can work for different people, so it’s important to discuss your options with a mental health professional.
“Can you fix me?”
There is a misconception that it’s the job of a therapist to “fix” people. While the goal is for each person to make progress and experience positive growth in their life, it’s not that they were “broken” to start with.
Everyone has areas of life where they can use help and guidance on from time to time. There may be things that people struggle to deal with and process on their own. A therapist helps guide them to accomplish that.
If you expect your therapist to be able to solve all your problems for you, you’ll end up disappointed. During your therapy session, you’re the one that’s actually doing the work. The therapist may know the right questions to ask to help you discover things about yourself, but they’re not able to do the work for you. So, if you’re waiting for your therapist to fix you, then you’re missing the main purpose of your sessions. The therapist is there to help you find the right answers for you.
Every detail of your day
Before getting into more detail, it’s important to note that building a trusting relationship with your therapist is valuable. Small talk and general conversation are an integral part of this process.
However, some people may use small talk to avoid discussing the issues that brought them to therapy. Sometimes, when someone goes into oversharing about their life, it’s because they are avoiding getting to the root cause of why they are seeing the therapist in the first place.
Now, it is important to mention that sometimes a question that your therapist asks may get you talking about something that seems off subject but really does connect emotionally for you. If you feel that what you’re talking about seems unrelated but was triggered by the therapist, continue exploring that avenue.
However, if you’re simply sharing the same details of something that you’ve shared with them many times, ask yourself if you’re avoiding getting to the root of the problem. Your therapist only knows what you’re willing to tell them.
“I didn’t do my homework”
While your therapist might not call it “homework”, there will probably be times when your therapist asks you to try different things during your daily life between your therapy sessions. They may seem strange to you or feel a little uncomfortable because it’s something that you’re not used to, but there’s a reason why they asked you to try it. Therapy homework can help you continue making progress between your sessions.
If you forget or purposefully forget to do what they asked, it’s going to slow any progress that you could be making. Remember, it’s not your therapist’s job to “fix you”. Instead, they’re working to help you learn what steps to take in your daily life to enjoy a healthy, fulfilling life.
If they’ve asked you to do something that you don’t feel ready to try or that feels too uncomfortable, be honest and let them know during your session. When you’re honest, it gives your therapist a chance to discuss your feelings and thoughts, and they may be able to offer you an alternative idea.
Find a therapist
If you’re still looking for a therapist and wondering how to find a good therapist to get the most out of your sessions, there are several options for you to consider. It’s helpful to know what you’re looking for in a therapist before you get started. It’s important for you to feel comfortable with your therapist so you’ll be able to open up during your sessions.
If you have health insurance, you can check with the company to see if they have therapists that are covered by your plan. You can also ask friends and family for recommendations if they’ve attended therapy before. You can also search online for a therapist either in your local area or for an online therapist like those at BetterHelp. You may access online therapy from the comfort and privacy of your own home.
Don’t be afraid to get your questions answered prior to your first session. Remember, your comfort level is important as you move forward with therapy sessions. While it’s normal for it to take a few sessions to get comfortable with your therapist, if you feel that you’re not seeing the results you were looking for, don’t be afraid to address it with your therapist. They can talk through the issues with you and you can always find a new therapist if you need it. The important thing is that you get the most out of your therapy sessions.