The only way to get the most out of therapy is to be open and honest with your therapist. However, it can be challenging to figure out how to talk to your therapist.
After all, this person is a stranger. Moreover, you don’t know a lot about them and you probably never will. So how do you open up to your therapist?
1. First, Find the Right Therapist
Before you can learn how to talk to your therapist, you have to find the right person. Many people don’t realize that they shouldn’t just see the first therapist they find. Instead, it’s important to interview the therapist to make sure that they’re the right fit.
Think about it: how can you learn how to talk to your therapist if you don’t first like and trust the person that you’re working with?
It’s perfectly acceptable, and even expected, for you to ask questions in your initial consultation. This may take place on the phone or in your first session. Ask your therapist how they handle certain issues, what they think about particular topics, and what their approach is to therapy.
Overall, you want to trust your gut when choosing a therapist. Is this someone you believe you could come to trust enough to talk openly with them?
If you don’t like the first therapist that you interview, that’s okay. Try a few more so that you get the right fit.
2. Approach Therapy with an Open Mind
Once you have selected your therapist, come to therapy with an open mind. Try to let your guard down. You have done your due diligence, so now it’s time to trust the process.
Try to assume that your therapist has your best interests at heart. Don’t immediately shut down if you don’t like what they say.
That said, most people test the waters of therapy. In other words, you’re likely to reveal small parts of yourself before digging into the most sensitive topics. That’s okay!
Learning how to talk to your therapist sometimes happens in baby steps.
In fact, the issue you initially come to therapy for often isn’t the important issue you’ll end up discussing later. For example, you might come to therapy because of problems with trust in your marriage. As you begin to feel safe with your therapist, you may reveal that underlying childhood abuse is at the root of your trust issues.
You should always be honest. But how open you are depends on your experience with therapy, your trust for the therapist, their therapeutic approach, and so many other factors. It’s okay to go at your own pace.
3. How to Talk to Your Therapist About Sensitive Topics
Eventually, you’re going to have to talk about sensitive topics. It might be about your your childhood trauma, your current sex life, or your mental health symptoms. Whatever it is, it’s something that is challenging for you to discuss with anyone.
As you’re learning how to talk to your therapist about these things, you might want to preface your revelation with, “this is a really sensitive topic for me.” This cues your therapist in to the fact that they need to be particularly attuned to your needs during this conversation. Of course, a professional therapist is always tuned in to you, but it doesn’t hurt to let them know that you’re feeling particularly vulnerable.
You might also find that it’s helpful to talk about your feelings about talking about this. In other words, instead of just delving in to the traumatic event, you might want to first discuss how you’re feeling in the moment. Expressing your feelings of fear, stress, anxiety, etc. can help make it easier to talk about the sensitive topics.
4. Use a Journal to Help with Therapy
It is very helpful to keep a journal while you are in therapy. You can use this journal to record additional thoughts about the therapeutic content. Moreover, it’s a great place to mull over your relationship with your therapist.
For example, you might get home from therapy and suddenly feel angry at your therapist. It’s important to look at why. Journaling can help you do that.
Then you can go to the next session with a clear mind. You may want to bring in your journal entry and discuss it with your therapist.
The most important part of therapy is the relationship that you have with your therapist.
You will uncover bumps in the road during the course of the therapeutic relationship. Learning to navigate those bumps is part of the process of learning how to talk to your therapist. The more you work at it, the better therapy will be.
5. Assess Progress for Yourself
Use your journal and check-ins with yourself to assess your own progress. Here are some things to think about:
- How do you feel before, during, and after a therapy session?
- What feelings arise when you think about discussing a very personal situation with your therapist?
- How has your therapist responded to you in the past and how has that made you feel?
- How would you describe your therapist to someone else?
- When you tell others about going to therapy, what words do you use to express the experience?
- What issues do you feel like you might be holding back on in therapy?
- Overall, how has your life changed since starting therapy?
You can check in with yourself to see how you feel about therapy, not just in the heat of the moment but overall throughout the experience. You can review journal entries to get a sense of your own growth. This can assist in you getting a broad overview of your progress in therapy.
If you haven’t made any progress in learning how to talk to your therapist, you’ll see that. If you have, you’ll see that as well. This information can help immensely with moving forward in the therapeutic relationship.