The 5 Most Common Things Clients Tell Me In Therapy

Spoiler Alert: If you feel worse than anyone knows, you're not alone.

 Verywell / Alison Czinkota 

Although we’re all different, many of the emotions we feel are the same. Yet, we don’t talk much about the way we feel or how we think. Consequently, many people worry about their mental health and feel alone with their concerns.

As a therapist, I have the honor of listening to people share their deepest secrets and tell me about the experiences that have caused them pain. They share what they’re really thinking, feeling, and doing.

While everyone’s story is unique, the themes in those stories are largely the same. Here are five of the most common things I hear in my therapy office—even though most people think they're the only ones experiencing it.

I feel worse than anyone knows.

Most people create an exterior that doesn't accurately reflect what they're feeling on the inside. They claim to be doing better than they feel and work hard to look as though they have things more together than they do. In reality, many hide their shame, insecurities, and emotional wounds from even their closest confidantes.

Yet, almost everyone assumes that they’re the only one doing this. They think their colleagues, friends, and family members are accurately portraying themselves. They believe everyone else feels as good on the inside as they appear on the outside.

Everyone has bad days and rough patches in life. But most people don’t broadcast their emotional struggles online or in-person.

Whether they want to promote positivity or they’re embarrassed by how they’re feeling, just know that you’re not alone if you feel like your outsides don’t match your insides.

I am not good enough.

While some people say these exact words, others reflect their feelings of inadequacy through their behavior. Some people become chronic overachievers and perfectionists—they try to prove their worth to the world when they don’t feel good enough.

Others become underachievers. They don’t want to risk uncovering evidence that they aren’t good enough and, in turn, they don’t exert any effort. They’d rather convince themselves (and everyone around them) that they failed because they didn’t care, not because they couldn’t do it.

And some are self-sabotagers. Whether their goal was to lose weight or pay down their debt, whenever things were going well, they did something that ensured they wouldn’t succeed. Sabotaging themselves helped relieve the tension they experienced while they waited to see if they could really succeed—and it gave them an excuse for not achieving their goal.

My work as a therapist often involves helping people see that they are good enough—even with their current flaws. Feeling your best often requires a balance of self-acceptance and self-improvement.

I am crazy.

Everyone has bizarre and disturbing thoughts. And everyone experiences emotions that seem intolerable. We all have unhealthy coping strategies we turn to sometimes, too.

Yet, so many people think they’re the only ones experiencing these things. They worry that other people would think they were “sick” or unstable if people knew their most private thoughts. What they don’t realize is, what they’re experiencing is normal.

Irrational thoughts, emotional disturbances, and unhelpful behaviors are part of life.

I have secrets.

The therapy office is often the first place people reveal lifelong secrets. Secrets may range from stories of abuse that were kept hidden under a cloud of shame to revelations of sexual issues that felt too embarrassing to tell anyone.

Some people are disgusted and perplexed by the things they’ve done or continue to do. Others are uncomfortable about the thoughts that run through their heads.

But, almost everyone has a secret or two. And revealing them in the therapy office is often the first step in the healing process.

Therapists have heard a lot of different things. They don’t judge anyone for the secrets they reveal—and they recognize how difficult it can be to share those secrets.

If anyone knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me.

Most people are afraid that they won’t be loved for who they really are or accepted despite the things that they’ve done.

However, a sense of acceptance and a feeling of belonging are vital to good psychological well-being.

The fear of not being liked can manifest itself in several different ways. Some people become people pleasers in an effort to be liked.

Others insist, “I don’t care what anyone thinks,” as a defense mechanism meant to keep criticism at bay. And some people work hard to mimic whoever is around them in an effort to be accepted into the group—even when it means stifling parts of their personality or behaving in a way that opposes their values.

Therapy often involves helping people learn to like themselves enough that they are able to accept that not everyone is going to like them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t likable. They just need to find the people who can appreciate them for who they are.

Talk to Someone

I know how much courage it takes to reach out to a therapist. And I know how scary it is to say these things out loud. But, talking to someone can improve your mental health.  Whether therapy shifts your perspective or helps you learn new skills, sharing whatever it is you think, feel, or do with a therapist can help you build mental strength.

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By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.