We all have good days and bad days. Sometimes we experience happiness, excitement, and hope, but there are moments when we struggle with failure, disappointment, and despair which can be caused by various things happening in our lives. And there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with our feelings and emotions. What one considers an effective way to cope may not work for another.
Deciding to go to therapy can be a huge step in a person’s life. It’s completely understandable, too, that it can be scary — especially when you’re doing it for the first time. Just imagine sitting face-to-face with a stranger and showing your worries, fears, your anxieties, and your deepest thoughts to them. Awkward can be an understatement for this situation, but remember that this ‘stranger’ talking to you is there to help you, not judge you.
If You Don’t Know What to Talk About in Therapy, Don’t Worry
Being new to therapy can be a bit overwhelming. But your therapist will not kick you out just because you don’t know where to start or what to talk about. It’s quite common to feel nervous and unsure, but you’d naturally get more comfortable as you go along the sessions.
There’s actually no ‘wrong’ topic when it comes to therapy. It can be a safe space where there’s no such thing as ‘off-limits’. You’re free to talk about anything and open up about whatever you’re feeling or experiencing. Here are a few things you can consider talking about in therapy:
1. Childhood memories
It can be good to start with small, lighthearted discussions. Talking about childhood memories can help to provide context for current issues you’re struggling with, and it can also help to foster a sense of connection and understanding between therapist and client. Additionally, discussing childhood memories can help to improve mood and increase feelings of nostalgia.
2. Relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners
There are times when these relationships are what brought you to therapy in the first place. But whatever the case, opening up about this can help you explore the roles that your family, friends, and partner play in your life and how your relationships with them have changed over time. This way, you can understand them better and develop healthier, more supportive relationships.
3. Work-related stress or anxiety
Therapy can help you understand your thoughts and behaviors around work and how they may impact your stress and anxiety levels. This gives way to talking about goal-setting and problem-solving around work-related issues.
4. Any big changes or stressors in your life
Life throws curveballs that shake your world from time to time, and it can be difficult to accept and cope with them. When you’re going through major life transitions such as a loved one going to prison, the passing of a family member, or losing a job, sharing your feelings about these big changes can be hard to do. However, we can often gain the most insights and develop coping strategies through these difficult conversations. In addition, your therapist can offer helpful perspectives and resources that you may not have considered before.
5. Hobbies or activities you enjoy
By discussing your hobbies during a therapy session, you can understand why you enjoy them and how they can aid you in coping with stress or anxiety. It can help you reflect and learn more about yourself and it can also help you find new ways to connect with other people who share the same interests down the road.
6. Past experiences
This can include both positive and negative experiences. Talking about your history can help your therapist understand how it has shaped who you are today. It’s never easy, but therapy can also be a way to process trauma or difficult events that have happened in your life.
7. Your goals
Whether short-term or long-term, discussing what you want to achieve with your therapist is important. It can be things like wanting to improve your mental health, cope with a specific problem, or make lifestyle changes. Talking about these can motivate you to start planning to reach them and work through any obstacles standing in your way.
Understanding What Your Therapist is Listening For
Therapy is a collaborative process. You might not be able to know exactly what your therapist thinks as they scribble away in their little notebook, but they’re trying their best to ensure you’re getting the most out of your sessions. Here are a few things they might be on the lookout for:
- Cues about how you’re feeling: Your therapist will pay attention to your tone of voice, body language, and choice of words to get a sense of how you’re feeling. This information can help them adjust the focus of your sessions accordingly.
- Your therapy goals: One of the main things your therapist will be listening for is whether or not you’re making progress toward your therapy goals. They’ll be looking for signs that you’re changing unhealthy patterns of thought or behavior.
- Red flags: In addition to looking for positive changes, your therapist will also be looking for any red flags that may indicate a need for further intervention. This could include anything from suicidal thoughts to potential self-harm behaviors.
Therapy is a very personal process that can get you through the most difficult parts of your life. It’s natural to feel reluctant about discussing certain topics, but it’s important always to remind yourself that therapy is a judgment-free place for you to explore and express what is on your mind and get the help you need.