1. “This week I found that when I…”
A statement like this shows a therapist that you have been engaging in the therapeutic process outside of weekly sessions. Therapy should be like a weekly tennis lesson. It’s there to provide you with a framework or a guide or a platform from which you can improve. After the session, you need to go out there and practice, hit more balls, do fitness training and so on: just having a one hour tennis lesson a week won’t improve your game by itself. You need to practice and you need to compete.
In the therapeutic context, this means deliberately making the time to reflect on what was said in session. It means doing difficult things like sitting with anxiety, like talking with others, like choosing not to avoid every difficult situation, and, trying to employ the tools you’ve learned in those situations (the equivalent of competing).
2. “I hate that you…”
The therapeutic space is a microcosm of the client’s world – inside and out. That means that if they hate something about me, they hate something about themselves. There’s an old saying – “when you point a finger, three point back”. In a therapeutic context, saying they hate something about me can point towards things we can work on about themselves – often feelings of worthlessness.
More importantly, if a client is able to express what they hate about me and then stay around to talk about it, then real work can be done. What is it that they hate exactly? Where does a dislike for that characteristic come from? How does it make them feel? Getting to the bottom of this stuff can help people become much more self-aware about their own automatic processes. It’s way too common that when people get frustrated with their therapist, they just stop coming back. At least try and talk it through first.
3. “I disagree with you.”
A therapist is not there to always be right; a therapist is there to help you grow. While we would like to provide helpful insights sometimes, the point is not what we think, it is what you think. When you disagree with us, you are using your critical thinking skills to come up with your own answers. We want you to be self-sufficient, and not reliant on us. We want you to make connections in the session, and learn how to do that yourself in your own life. So when you disagree with us, you’re working out your critical thinking muscles! Not only that, but you are showing confidence in your own insight. We could not be prouder!
4. “This weird thought just came into my head…”
Great – carry on.
The mind will make connections to random things that seemingly have no relevance to what is immediately being discussed. However, in the therapeutic space, everything has potential relevance: what you say, how you say it, whether you’re tipsy, or late, or bored, every fantasy, every time you go blank… The list goes on.
So if something pops into your head (anything, from suicidal or sexual fantasies to remembering an old childhood memory), talk about it. Your mind knows that it’s at therapy to become more self-aware and will do what it can to help you. Don’t ignore things because you feel a little uncomfortable about them – bring them up and see where it goes.
5. “I’m ready to move on.”
When you have spent considerable time with a therapist, perhaps a few months to a few years, the person becomes an important part of your life. There are times that the transition to leaving a therapist is quite easy; perhaps you had a specific issue you wanted to address, and you addressed it. Other times, it can be as simple as you moving to another state. However, sometimes the decision to move on just has to do with a feeling of readiness. You know the therapist will always be there if you need them, and right now you do not need them in the same way.
It can be a scary feeling to move on, or sometimes we just get used to the routine and do not think about the option ever. While the therapist will be sad to see you go as well, we are beyond happy to see you grow, and trust that you know when the time is right.