Your Therapy Questions Answered or Explained, by a Therapist
Written by: Katie Sheehan, MSW, LCSW
I’m often met with a certain fascination when meeting someone new and disclosing my role as a therapist. I notice that some people are quick to use that opportunity to ask me their burning questions about the therapeutic process, as if I’ve lifted the veil and given them a glimpse into a secret, mysterious, off limits realm!
Below are questions/topics that should absolutely be explored, as well as some questions that we’re likely to not answer for good reason.
Questions/Topics that your therapist should absolutely feel ok discussing:
Bringing up something embarrassing or hard to talk about
This is such a challenging thing to do! Often the conversations we would be most tempted to avoid talking about with our therapist might be the issues causing us the most distress. First things first - remind yourself “My therapist is a non-judgemental listener and is here for this very purpose.” Second, think of what you need from them to feel comfortable sharing this, and be okay asking for that!
That might sound something like “I have something I want to talk about that’s difficult for me to bring up, can you...”
“...Be patient with me while I get through this.”
Some other comforting options include sending the topic through encrypted email to be discussed during session, writing it down for your therapist, or even asking them to bring up that topic to start with for the following week.
What if I don’t feel like therapy is working?
This is very important information for your therapist to have but also quite an intimidating topic! There are many reasons that this could occur, and it’s not necessarily a reflection of you or your therapist. The fit of the therapist may feel off, the intervention may not be right for you, your goals may have changed over time, etc.
Different therapists have different preferences for how often they check in on things like this. Some may ask at the end of every session something that sounds like “How was today’s sessions for you?” Some may check in every so often asking “How do you feel like therapy is going?” These are great times to voice any concerns. Some therapists, however, may not ask questions like this at all. Then I would encourage using an I-feel statement to get the ball rolling.
With the knowledge you provide, your therapist can adjust accordingly. This could lead to some really positive changes or you may find yourself asking...
“Dumping” my therapist
So you’ve had the talk of exploring fit, interventions, goals, and you’re still not getting what you want out of therapy. You’ve made the decision, now you just have to rip the band-aid off. Of course some people prefer to cease services through a call or an email, but I highly recommend having a planned “termination” session. The termination session can have a lot of great content, including reflecting on things that went well or didn’t go well, progress that you made towards your goals, what barriers you ran into and even what you’re looking for in your next therapeutic relationship. It also can provide a sense of closure, which is helpful in the ending of any relationship.
Questions your therapist may not directly answer:
Questions about your therapist’s personal life
A good therapist upholds strong boundaries to make therapy successful. This means that any personal disclosures that happen must be heavily weighed. Your therapist may feel comfortable talking about “low risk” topics such as their pets, or their recent vacation. This can help you feel trust and comfort working together. However, a bigger disclosure runs the risk of affecting your quality of treatment. Therefore, don’t be surprised when your therapist avoids a personal question.
Questions that blur the line of client-therapist relationship
This could be any question that may create confusion about what our role is to you. It could be as small as “Do you want to come to my soccer game?” Or as big as “Do you think we’d be friends if I wasn’t your client?”
In conclusion, if you find yourself wondering if a question is okay to ask or not, here are a few questions you can ask yourself prior to asking your therapist.
-Why is it important to me to know this?
-What would their answer change for me in treatment?
And finally, remember every therapist is different and their responses are likely to vary. Every question we answer or choose not to answer is with your best interest in mind.