Have you ever struggled to know what exactly to talk about in therapy? I certainly have! Even though I’ve attended on and off for years, I found myself struggling to know what to talk about next. Maybe it was a sign that my time there had come to an end, and there was nothing left to say. Or, perhaps, it was simply that I didn’t know what else I could address.
There are so many things you can take to your counselor or therapist, from emotional issues to relationships troubles. Even if you’re simply feeling stuck in life, therapy is one of the best ways to work through it.
Whether you’re living with a mental health condition or struggle to with other life changes, here are just some things you should talk about with your therapist.
Are you new to therapy? Here are just some traits of a good therapist to watch out for.
Before we move on, let’s briefly discuss what you should be looking out for in a therapist. A good therapist should possess several traits to aid them in their quest to help others. Ideally we want to see all of these in our chosen therapist, but we’re only human. So, with that in mind, here are some positive things to look out for.
- Good active listening skills.
- Professional boundaries.
- A sense of trust.
- A non-judgement attitude towards you and what you bring to therapy.
- Emotional intelligence.
- A professional grasp of problem-solving in various situations.
- A goal-orientated mindset.
- Flexibility and an understanding that all clients are different, and require a tailored approach to suit them.
No sure what to talk about in therapy? Here are just some suggestions.
For some, emotional distress might be the primary reason for attending therapy in the first place.For others, it may not be that obvious. But from personal experience, each time I went to a therapist, I ended up talking about my emotions and feelings. Even if I was attending for an entirely different reason.
We could have feelings on a different level, but are unable to access them for other reasons. This could be because of masking, an inability to access these emotions or even conscious suppression.
No matter the reason, therapy is designed to be a safe place to explore and process these emotions. Furthermore, taking the time to explore, identify and understand our more difficult emotions can help us to develop healthier coping mechanisms, and reduce instances of deep emotional distress in the future.
Relationships with others.
Therapy is a wonderful place to discuss your relationship with others and how you feel about them. This could be your relationship with your family, partner, friends and even colleagues. I personally had to attend therapy in relation to a difficult colleague who went out of their way to make everyone, not just me, feel intimidated. It was a struggle to communicate with them, specifically as they were so aggressive. I was never taught to be assertive in life, and struggled to make my more feminine voice heard in a workplace full of masculine energy.
The therapist and I discussed my issues with being assertive and how I could challenge that. While it didn’t work on the person in question, and they continued to intimidate everyone around them, I have since been able to put this into practice in other areas of my life.
My husband and I even attend therapy separately to discuss our issues with each other prior to COVID. And then once afterwards as a couple before getting married. We were able to work through any issues we had and learn how to communicate on a similar level. I can honestly say that it was one of the best things we did to revive our otherwise exhausted relationship, and it taught us valuable lessons about effective communication in what is ultimately a lifelong partnership.
Finally, therapy introduced me to the concept of generational trauma and boundaries. It was there that I discovered the masses of complex trauma I was holding onto and the lack of boundaries I set between myself and others. This all stemmed from a lack of boundaries in my family circle, something I’ve since worked to improve.
Issue with self-esteem and self-worth.
Ah, self-confidence and esteem. My own pitfalls. I’ve struggled with both these things for the majority of my life, and while things have improved, I still find myself hanging on by my bootstraps! Cultivating self-confidence and a sense of self-worth isn’t an easy feat if you’ve never had any. But it impacts so many areas of our life and can halt us in our quest for finding out true, authentic selves.
In therapy you can discuss these issues, their root causes and any contributing factors. From there, you can work on developing a more positive sense of self with the help of your chosen therapist. It’s not an easy fix, nor is it quick and final. Self-confidence and esteem are both things that require constant vigilance and personal reminders of just how bad-ass you are!
Mental health concerns.
Therapy is the ideal, and one of the most recommended places, to address various mental health issues. If you’re suffering from feelings of depression, anxiety, an eating disorder or anything else, therapy should be within your treatment plan.
But why? Talking to anyone about what you’re feeling can help unload those heavy emotions. But talking to a seasoned therapist can take those scrambled thoughts and emotions, and help unravel them at a pace you’re comfortable with. They can help you find the right coping strategies to effectively manage your condition, and can teach you how to spot the warning signs of a ‘flare.’
I’ve attended therapy several times in my life. Finding a good fitting therapist for me lead to my recovery from long term anorexia nervosa, something I never thought possible. And while we no longer see each other (I’ve been discharged for two years now), we keep in touch via email on occasion. It took years to find someone who fit both my personality and the way I think, but it was worth the heartache because I found someone who helped me do the impossible.
I’ve since utilised other options when I felt in need of a top up such as Better Help and local private therapists. There’s nothing shameful about going back to therapy for a few sessions, or even a few months when you feel the darkness creeping back in. If anything, it’s a testament to your ability to recognise a breakdown before it surfaces.
Recovery isn’t linear and there will be times when everything becomes too much. Don’t be ashamed to seek out help at any point in your journey.
Carrying on from our last point, trauma is another major life event that I highly recommend seeking therapy for. Be it complex trauma (experienced over several life events and a long period of time), or trauma caused by a specific event, be it an accident or illness. Many therapists are equipped to deal with trauma, however you can find those who are specialised in this area and may utilise different techniques. Do your research to find someone who’s right for you, and don’t be afraid to shop around.
Life changes and transitions.
There are a few things that are guaranteed in this life, and change is one of them. But we can often struggle with changes whether they’re good or bad. A change in career, a big move, the death of a loved one or even a happy event like getting married can all cause us to feel emotionally overwhelmed. That’s where therapy comes in! It can provide you with a safe place to ask for support and help you process your thoughts, fears and feelings.
For example, many couples opt to attend pre-marriage counseling as a way to discuss any underlying issues. Or even to simply talk about their future together and the fears that come with it.
Personal growth and self-exploration.
Last, but certainly not least, is self-exploration and personal growth. We’re always changing and growing as humans, and sometimes we need help to navigate. Engaging in therapy can help us to gain insights into what we value, our strengths, goals and how we can become our true, authentic selves.
I personally believe that my therapist had a hand in helping me become who I am. As did the pandemic. When the world slowed down to cope with an unexpected epidemic, I took the opportunity to explore the passions I had on a deeper level. And I even re-discovered some that I had been suppressing for years, such as art, something I was very good at as a child. Twenty twenty is the year I was introduced to true myself for the first time in what feels like a decade. And the following year I bit the bullet and cut off my hair, something I had wanted to do since I was a young girl.
Since then it’s been a real roller coaster. But ultimately I’m finally living as the person I have always wanted to be. It’s all thanks to engaging in therapy, learning to set boundaries and embracing the fact that I have a right to live my life as I want to as long as it causes no harm to myself or others.