What Your Therapist Wants You To Know

15 things your therapist wants you to know.

Positive blonde middle-aged woman psychologist talking to patient.

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If you're seeking therapy for an addiction or a mental health disorder, it may feel daunting and you might have so many thoughts and questions about the therapeutic experience and your therapist. You might be wondering:

  • Will I like my therapist?
  • What will my therapist think of me?
  • What if the treatment doesn’t work?
  • How will it feel divulging my darkest secrets to a complete stranger? 

These are some common thoughts and roadblocks that many of us encounter when we initially enter therapy. Sharing intimate details about your life with someone who you do not know can seem daunting and invasive.

The unknown, "what ifs" and internal fear of meeting a therapist may be one of the potential road barriers to seeking help.

15 Things Your Therapist Wants You to Know

Therapists are meant to guide you and help you overcome your addiction, mental health disorders, or any life stressors that you are struggling with. Therapists are on your side, and they want you to get better.

With that said, here's a list of 15 things your therapist wants you to know.

You Must Want Help For Your Own Well-Being

Therapy is about you, not the therapist. Admitting that you are struggling and need help is the first step. Finding a therapist and showing up is the second step.

However, you cannot just go through the motions. You must do the hard work, which includes being vulnerable, opening up, being honest, and actively involving yourself in the therapy process.

A therapist is a guiding hand in the process, not the solution, as therapy is a dual partnership between the client and the therapist. 

Your Therapist Knows When You Have Relapsed

If you are seeking therapy for an addiction, it is important to keep in mind that urges, cravings, and relapses are part of the reality of your recovery. Not everyone will relapse, but most likely, everyone will experience dark times.

Most therapists will usually know if you have relapsed or if you are lying about using drugs from your behaviors, body language, and facial patterns.

Lying to your therapist does not help you, nor does it help your therapist. Therefore it is important that you remain honest about your urges, cravings, and relapses. 

Confidentiality Is Everything

Therapists, by law, are required to keep everything you talk about is confidential. They will not tell your story to friends at dinner parties, and they will not talk about you with their spouse.

Their job and your life are completely separate from their own professional and personal life. So don't worry. Everything you discuss with your therapist stays within the therapy room walls, and your deepest concerns will never be aired to the world.

The only times a therapist will break confidentiality is if you are a danger to yourself or others.

Your Therapist Has Heard It Before 

Therapists deal with a broad spectrum of clients, behaviors, family troubles, extramarital affairs, addiction, and mental health concerns. Your past behaviors, current struggles, and secrets should not shock your therapist as they likely have dealt with many similar scenarios.

Experienced therapists have seen it all. With that said, it is important to seek out a therapist who is trained in specific therapy modalities that treat your disorder.

For example, if you have a history of trauma, look for a therapist who has a background in different types of trauma therapy.

Your Therapist's Job Is Not to Agree With You 

Your therapist is there to listen and guide you and give you a professional opinion. Your therapist is not your friend, nor do they have to agree with your viewpoints. If you are searching for positive reinforcement from your therapist, you may not find it.

A good therapist will be honest with you, which often means disagreeing with you and telling you things you may not want to hear.

Your therapist may not agree with your behaviors and thought patterns but will continuously listen and guide you so you can develop healthy coping habits and adopt a toolkit that can help you in the future. 

Finding the Right Therapist May Be Harder Than You Think 

It may take several therapy sessions before you discover that the fit is not there. Maybe you and your therapist cannot relate, or maybe you do not feel comfortable. This is okay as it may take going to a few different therapists before you find the right fit.

You want a therapist you feel comfortable with, can relate to, and can communicate with. Taking time to research and meet different therapists in your area before you fully commit may be the correct path to take when you are new to therapy.

Therapists understand how important a good fit is, and therefore they are not offended if you do not think your therapist is the best fit. In fact, many therapists will refer you to another therapist who may be a better fit for you.

They May Not Have All the Answers

Therapists are trained to guide you and help you uncover your underlying triggers. They want to see you get better and be happy, but they may not have all the answers for "Why am I feeling this way?" or "Why did this happen to me?"

They may not be able to answer why you endured such a traumatic event in your past or why you continue to have negative thinking patterns despite your successful recovery process.

A lot of what a therapist does is helping yourself find your own answers to your questions through the journey of self-discovery and self-awareness. 

Going to Therapy Does Not Mean There Is Something Wrong With You

Therapy is a good thing. It is healthy, and it means that you care about yourself to get better. There is still some negativity associated with the stigma of therapy, but plenty of people attend therapy for guidance in their personal lives.

Attending therapy is a healthy and cathartic way to become a better individual.

You Most Likely Will Feel Worse Before You Feel Better

Sharing your buried feelings, deepest struggles, and past traumatic experiences can leave you feeling vulnerable, which can often stir up and uncover some deep negative emotions.

You may find yourself in tears and full of anxiety, but talking about these things is known to open up wounds. However, opening up and cleaning out wounds is important for safe healing.

Although talking about your problems may be painful at first, within time, you will begin to feel better.

Your Therapist Will Not Tell You What to Do

Therapists are meant to listen and help you uncover deep triggers. They are there to guide you but are not there to tell you how to live your life.

A good therapist will give you the power to make healthy decisions and hopefully give you the right tools to how you deal with your emotions and control your actions. However, it is not their responsibility to make choices for you. 

Your Addiction or Mental Health Disorder Was Not Your Choice 

You did not wake up one morning and decide that you want to become addicted to pain pills or alcohol or struggle with depression or anxiety.

Addiction and mental health disorders have many predisposing factors that are out of your control.

Yes, the initial choice to use drugs was yours, but many addictions occur when individuals turn to drugs to relieve their deep emotional pain.

Unfortunately, it only takes a few times, a genetic predisposition, and a surge of dopamine for the brain and body to want more, resulting in you using more of the drug. 

There May Be Multiple Reasons Why An Individual Developed An Addiction

Therapists usually discover underlying co-occurring disorders after spending some time with their client. Individuals who are struggling with addiction are often dealing with underlying trauma or co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

Many individuals will turn to drugs or alcohol to mask their feelings associated with past traumas, grief, depression, or stress without knowing that addiction is brewing.

Individuals will not uncover these underlying triggers until they seek treatment for their addiction and their therapist starts to unravel their difficult pasts that were masked by drugs and alcohol. 

High-Functioning Anxiety Is Neither Productive Nor Healthy

Many individuals with high functioning anxiety feel as though they can hide it or use it to their advantage. Working longer hours, striving towards perfectionism, multitasking, maintaining a rigid schedule, staying extremely organized, and having a boost of confidence can all seem like great qualities on the surface; over time these high-functioning anxiety traits will catch up to you.

Many individuals with high-functioning anxiety use their anxiety to advance in their career or strive towards a personal goal; however, these individuals are still dealing with all the signs and symptoms associated with anxiety, and trying to hide these symptoms is exhausting.

High-functioning anxiety is not a healthy, sustainable way to live, and it is essential to talk to a therapist to find healthier ways to cope.

Your Anxiety Is Not Rational

Usually, anxiety is a natural, reasonable reaction to a dangerous and irrational trigger or event. However, individuals with anxiety disorders have an internal faulty alarm system, meaning that they will have irrational anxiety in non-threatening situations.

These individuals will excessively worry over everyday occurrences such as traffic, dirty dishes, work deadlines, or social situations. They may even feel as though their life is in danger.

It is essential to understand that your brain and body are overreacting to a harmless situation, and therapy can teach you to use healthy coping skills to move forward and tolerate the distress from these situations.

Your Environment Can Be a Trigger For Your Anxiety

Maybe you work in a crowded office, sit in traffic for hours each day, spend too much time sitting at home, or are exposed to stressful situations (first responders). Your environment can be fueling your anxiety, and you may not realize it until you change your environment, even if it is for short periods.

Switching up your daily routine, spending more time outdoors, changing your work setting, or finding soothing coping mechanisms to help you when you are stuck in a stressful environment can change how you feel.

If you find yourself anxious while sitting at home, then go out for a walk. If you find your office too crowded, see if you can work from home for a couple of days or work in a more quiet setting.

If you find yourself stuck in traffic, consider taking public transport or changing your routine so you can avoid commuting in traffic. One major takeaway from attending therapy is that you will come to learn your triggers and develop solutions to adjust better. 

Everyone’s Anxiety Is Different

You are a unique individual and therefore your anxiety will manifest in ways that are different compared to others. Your signs and symptoms, triggers, and treatment approaches will differ from those of your neighbor, co-worker, or friend.

As a result, it is important to avoid comparing yourself to others when it comes to your anxiety.

Develop a strong therapeutic alliance with your therapist, have a reliable support system in place, and recognize that although anxiety disorders are prevalent, your treatment approach may be unique.

The Journey to Finding the Right Fit

Let's take a look at what your experience might be like when you're in search of a therapist.

The Consult

A good therapist is typically compassionate and nonjudgmental, but some individuals prefer a therapist who does a lot of listening while you vent and process, while other individuals prefer a more active therapist who teaches coping skills and offers more feedback.

Therefore it is important to go with your gut feeling to see if it feels right talking to this therapist during the initial consult.

Generally, you can tell if a therapist is a good listener if you feel heard and understood when talking with them.

Here's some questions to keep in mind in the first session:

  • Have they worked with other individuals with your issues? During this initial consult, share a little about your presenting issue and see how the therapist responds. 
  • What is their specialty? Be wary of therapists who specialize in everything. For instance, some therapists may only specialize in trauma relating to eating disorder, whereas another therapist may be more specialized in mood disorders. 

After Your First Few Sessions

Therapy is not a quick fix, and there is no specific timeline on when you will see improvements. Depending on the duration and severity of your signs and symptoms, it may take many months before you start seeing improvements.

However, there are some questions you should be asking yourself after every therapy session in order to make sure that you are receiving the best possible care:

Does your therapist portray compassion and kindness?

It is important that your therapist does show concern or recommend against certain behaviors that you are portraying; however, you should never feel judged or ashamed after a therapy session.

The most effective therapists make you feel accepted and validated, showing understanding and sympathy for what you are going through.

They will approach you with compassion and kindness and build enough trust for you to share your darkest thoughts and memories with them.

Does your therapist challenge you? 

It is important to recognize that therapy is not synonymous with friendship. An effective therapist will challenge you and help you see things from a different perspective, even if it may be hard to hear.

There should be a strict professional boundary that should never be crossed. Even if you view your therapist as your friend or confidant, they should never treat you as their friend.

Does your therapist check in with you? 

It is important for your therapist to check-in with you about how you think therapy is going. Since each session is tailored to you, a good therapist should adjust treatment based on your feedback.

For instance, if you feel like they pushed you to do something you were not ready to do and you say you want smaller, more achievable steps, your therapist should take this into consideration for future exercises.

A Word From Verywell

While every therapist-patient relationship is unique, a therapist's main goal is to help you improve your overall well-being. However, to see progress, you'll need to be willing to be put in a great deal of time and effort into the therapeutic process.

If you're searching for a therapist, be sure to seek out someone who you feel you have a good connection with and remember to put your needs first.

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