What Not to Say to Your Therapist

These common phrases might hinder your progress.

We won’t beat around the bush. When it comes to speaking with your therapist, there are very few conversation topics off the table. Instead, it is important to come to your sessions—virtual or otherwise—with a mindset of being open and vulnerable.

With that said, we’re outlining some common phrases that therapists tend to hear from their clients and why they might hinder your progress.

1

“I feel like I’m talking too much.”

Remember, this hour or two hours of time with your therapist is your time and your space. If you go into therapy that day and have a lot to say, allow yourself to speak what’s on your mind.

Instead of feeling bad for “talking too much,” you could instead say something like, "I have a lot I need to share. I appreciate you listening. I am working on identifying the most important points to share with you."

“It can be cathartic to unload all your thoughts in a safe environment,” says Jennie Marie Battistin, LMFT, clinical director/founder of Hope Therapy Center in Burbank, California. “Rather than apologizing, pause and breathe. Then, consider whether you’re talking about several superficial events to avoid getting to deeper issues, or if you feel uncomfortable about a question that was asked.”

If you do end up veering into either of the above territories, your therapist is equipped to help steer you back to the point of focus.

2

“I’m the worst. I didn’t do my homework.”

Often, your therapist will give you a task or assignment at the end of your session, and then ask you to report back the next time you’re together. While it’s important to prioritize this homework, it’s also understandable if you weren’t able to make it happen.  

Battistin says that instead of zero-ing in on that guilty feeling or walking into your session, try to get to the heart of the reason for why your task wasn’t checked off the to-do list. Maybe you had a difficult time managing your time that week or struggled to understand its importance. Perhaps the task was such a challenge that a smaller step first would be better.  

Whatever the case, this is something you and your therapist can talk about and work through during your session. You might even suggest doing the task during your actual therapy session, if possible.   

Jennie Marie Battistin, LMFT

Therapy is your space, and you are the leader of your growth and change. A homework assignment is optional in many cases and provided to help enhance your work in therapy. Your therapist isn't judging you and it is not helpful to judge yourself.

— Jennie Marie Battistin, LMFT
3

“I’m sorry for my emotions.”

“Therapy should offer a safe space to express your non-violent emotions, and to find support and coping mechanisms,” says Dr. Indra Cidambi, MD, clinical psychologist, and medical director/founder of Center for Network Therapy. “It is OK to express emotions. Your therapist is trained to help people and guide them to a better place.

4

“I always just talk about myself.”

Battistin says that when a client is new to therapy, it’s common to struggle with feeling rude about the one-way channel of conversation. With friends we have a back-and-forth dialogue, so it might feel a bit awkward to only discuss only your thoughts and feelings. Remember, this is your space and your time to heal and learn. The very point is to talk about yourself.

5

“I can’t believe I told you that!”

“A client might feel embarrassed by information they shared in the session or previous session. This embarrassment can leave them feeling uncomfortable and distressed,” says Battistin. “A good therapist can validate a client's feelings and experiences. and help them work through the ‘uncomfortable.'"

She says that she often reminds her clients that she’s not judging them, and that this is their space to be open and honest.

Think of it this way: Therapy is your stage, and you are the writer. Your therapist is the producer helping guide you to live out the life you want to live by asking questions, validating feelings, and standing witness to your thoughts.

Allow yourself to open up freely so your therapist can learn about your world and help you produce the story of your life.

6

“Therapy won’t work for me.”

This mindset is common in people who are new to therapy and don’t yet understand its full function and power. It is particularly common in people who struggle to give up control, and for people who come into therapy with preconceived notions about the “type” of people who “need” therapy.  

The good news is that you’re there, and you’ve begun this life-long journey. The better news is that you are totally OK saying something like “I’m fearful that therapy won’t work for me” or “I’m not sure how therapy works or if it’s for me.”  

Indra Cidambi, M.D.

You could even say, ‘I am ambivalent about handing over control to someone else, so you may find that I am sometimes resistant to your suggestions.

— Indra Cidambi, M.D.

This allows your therapist to understand your mindset and better help you work through it in order to find success.

Other Things to Avoid

In addition to curbing (or rephrasing) the above in your therapy sessions, there are some topics and behaviors that truly are off limits for both you and your therapist.  

These include confidential conversations about other patients your therapist sees, romantic conversations (or activity) toward each other, and demonstrating insensitivity to culture, sex, race, gender, or identity.

Violent emotions should also be curbed. If you feel them and have them, let your therapist know and together you can work on channeling them into healthier channels (and likely truer emotions).  

In addition, therapists should not offer their judgement or criticism about you or others, give unsolicited advice, or speak in hard-to-follow technical terms. They should also cultivate a space where you feel empowered to be open.

A Word From Verywell

A good therapist relationship is one where you feel respected, safe, and important. Progress in therapy can be expedited when you are able to establish trust in your client-therapist relationship and can practice vulnerability without fear. This can take practice and time, so be patient and award yourself some grace.

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