4 Things Your Therapist WANTS to Hear (That You Thought Were Off the Table)

By Maria Miller, MA, PLPC

Here’s a little secret you may not have considered: Your therapist has likely done a LOT of therapy themselves. For many therapists, we got into the profession because therapy changes our lives, and we want to pass along the gift we’ve been given. This also means that we’ve spent a lot of hours on a therapist’s couch with the same thoughts of doubt & confusion that you might have. Here are 4 things that you may have thought were off the table to say to your therapist, but we actually want to hear it!

1. “I don’t know. Can you give me some ideas?” Sometimes, when I ask a question, I see a deer in headlights looking right back at me. I imagine that my client feels how I have often felt on a therapist’s couch: Confused, unsure, really looking for guidance. It’s okay to say that; in fact, we WANT you to say that! You can always say “I don’t know” or “can you clarify that question?” or even ask us for some ideas to get started. We’re here for you, just as you are.

2. “I’m not sure we are on the right path. Can we talk about something else?” Despite the graduate degree and years of practice, you still know you better than your therapist does. Personally, I am delighted when a client tells me they’re feeling off track with our conversation & that they want to redirect. I assure you we do not want to spend a full hour talking about something that doesn’t matter to you! Please speak up, even if you don’t know what you’d rather talk about. We can figure that out together.

3. “I’ve already tried that, and I didn’t like it.” A perfect therapist would start every recommendation with: “Have you already tried x?” But, alas, we are human and forget sometimes. Rather than sitting through yet another rendition of a guided progressive muscle relaxation [or whatever it is!] that you know doesn’t work for you, please speak up and tell us. I am so grateful when a client cuts me off and sheepishly says, “yeah, I tried that with my last therapist, and it really doesn’t work for me.” Thank you for giving me that information, and let’s find you something that DOES work for you!

4. “I think I’m done with therapy.” Oh, the therapist breakup; it can be so hard! Listen: We WANT you to come to a place where you can rely on your own tools to live a beautiful, empowered life. Of course, I feel sad when I know it might my last time seeing a client, but this is all a part of the job description. Clients come and go, and I am so grateful to be a part of the journey that ends in “I think I’m ready to try flying on my own!”

The #1 predictor of therapy success is the quality of the therapeutic relationship. Your therapist is (or should be) your safe space; if you can’t be honest & real with your therapist, then who can you be real with? We love hearing your authentic thoughts, beliefs, and challenges. You can fall apart with us, be undecided with us, and show up unprepared with us. That’s what makes therapy so special; we are your #1 fans, and saying what’s on your mind really helps us understand & celebrate who you truly are.