The most recent studies on mental health show that around 1 in 5 adults in the US (52.9 million in 2020) suffer from some form of mental illness, ranging from mild or moderate to severe. Talking with a professional is a great way to deal with these struggles.
In therapy sessions, you can discuss various issues related to depression, childhood trauma, family problems, personal growth or insecurities, past challenges, and so much more.
The stereotypical images of therapy in the past suggests people go into these sessions when they are feeling their absolute worst. While this can be the case for many, in reality, you can use the aid of an excellent therapist to make hard decisions, discuss the positive things in your life, and better understand who you are.
What to Talk About in Therapy Sessions
Sadly, many people wait until they are at their breaking point before reaching out for help. When this happens, so much can build up that pinpointing precisely what to talk about in therapy can be complicated.
While discussing the most recent events is a good starting point, other topics could be explored during your treatment.
Talk About Your Past (Childhood Experiences)
Not many people understand how much their childhood experiences can impact their lives. But, according to Phycology Today, “Our childhood experiences are the foundation on which the rest of our lives are built.”
Abuse, neglect, criticism, micromanagement, and other negative behaviors can create cracks in that foundation, providing weak spots that can negatively affect our lives.
Sometimes you don’t even realize how much your childhood has affected you until you start talking about it. People will bury these experiences and emotions for protection, but they never disappear.
Negative childhood experiences don’t necessarily have to include your parents or family struggles. Maybe you were bullied in school, lost a loved one (human or pet), or had a terrifying experience you never got over.
Dive into Your Current Relationships
The people we surround ourselves with will play a massive role in our lives. Your current relationships with your partner, friends, parents, kids, co-workers, bosses, etc., impact your mental health, whether on a positive level or a negative one.
While in therapy, explore these relationship patterns with your therapist; there is always room for improvement no matter where your relationship sits.
Therapists are a great middle man for troubled marriages or family feuds. Talking with someone who won’t take sides can help heal and mend relationships that would otherwise remain broken.
Discuss Your Medical History (Mental Health and Physical Health)
During your therapy session, you must discuss your medical history. Whether you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, recently found out you have diabetes or suffer from an eating disorder.
Even if you don’t think your medical history is relevant, therapists can make connections you might not know exists.
Talk About Your Current Job or Career. (Are you happy there?)
Therapy can be helpful when you are having a hard time at work. For example, maybe you feel stuck, underappreciated, underpaid, or don’t know what you feel.
Once you start the conversation with your therapist, you can figure out where your most significant concerns lie. You can take a deeper look into where you are on a professional level and decide if that is where you are meant to be.
Use these sessions to explore other possibilities, the benefit of staying vs. the benefit of moving on. For example, you might begin to notice it is time for a change, or you might see that things you are doing could be holding you back.
Major Life Transition
Major life changes can make people worry A LOT. For example, they are moving out of state, starting a new career, having a baby, and even buying a new home. All of these events can cause feelings we don’t expect or understand.
Talking these transitions out with someone with no stakes in the game can give you perspective on the events unfolding. In addition, your therapist can help guide you through the ups and downs during your conversation to help you better understand how you feel about it.
What are Your Ambitions in Life? (What Are Your Goals and Dreams?)
Just because you aren’t in a mass depression or struggling now doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from therapy sessions.
You can use therapy to better yourself and discover who you want to be. A good therapist helps clients think constructively; they offer tools to help them make the right decision.
Therapy sessions can help us gather all our thoughts, organize them, and make revelations about ourselves we would never have considered before.
Do You Have Fears About the Future?
Life is full of uncertainty, more so now than ever; the “not knowing” can keep us from living our best lives.
While there is no way to predict the future, talking with a therapist can be a great tool when we become overwhelmed with the unknown.
These professionals are equipped with the knowledge and experience to help you work out where your fears steam from and how to handle them healthily.
Explore the World of Grief
Did someone you love dearly recently pass away? Maybe you lost a pregnancy or just got a divorce. Did you seek therapy to gain a deeper understanding of your grief?
Greif is a painful emotion that many people struggle to talk about. However, starting therapy can as soon as possible can help you navigate through the most challenging moments, helping you cope with your trauma and begin to heal.
Many people spend a lot of time avoiding pain and grief when discussing the best way to get through it.
Therapeutic Relationship Building: Understanding your therapist is Essential
Building a good therapeutic relationship with your therapist is critical from your first session. You will spend time with this person, having difficult conversations and exposing your deepest secrets and thoughts.
For therapy to work for you, you must feel comfortable with the therapist you are working with. You want to get as much out of each session as possible, and to do this, you have to trust the person you talk to 100%.
The first therapist you see might not be the right person for you. Not all therapists are the same; each has their practices, areas of expertise, and methods for helping clients.
If you don’t feel the therapist you are working with is being helpful, it is okay to ask for another one or look for someone in a specific area that might help you more. Online therapy services allow you to switch counselors easily.
Types of Therapists
You can find a therapist who can talk you through anything at any moment. However, if you are struggling in a particular area, finding a professional therapist who helps clients in that field might be better.
While you can find therapists in just about any area, here are the most common ones people typically seek.
- Marriage and Family Therapist
- Addiction therapist
- Child Therapist
- Clinical therapist
- Cognitive therapist
- Behavioral therapist
- Trauma therapist
- Divorce therapist
- ADHD therapist
- Depression and grief therapist
- LGBTQ therapist
What to Expect in a Therapy session
During your therapy time, you will learn essential lessons that will help you work through difficult times, things that happened in the past, and how to cope with issues that are out of your control.
You Will Learn Coping Mechanisms
During your treatment, you will be provided healthy coping mechanisms that will benefit you throughout your life.
Some of these coping skills can include
- Take some time for yourself
- Cognitive challenges
- Intentional Movement
A Safe Space to Talk
A therapy session provides a safe space to talk freely about what is going wrong in life. A therapist is there to discuss your feelings and thoughts; they are never there to judge or make you feel bad.
Whether you attend therapy regarding relationship issues, lack of self-worth, or anything else, your therapist is available and on your side to help you work through whatever has happened.
Therapy is about taking control of your life. Use this time to empower yourself and explore who you are and want to become.
Use therapy as a stepping stone to become a stronger person, to live the life you deserve, and talk about what you can do to be your best self and be happy.
Opening Old Wounds
Not everything about therapy will be easy. Therapists have to open old wounds to help their clients heal.
People will bury trauma deep inside them to survive, thrive, and mask the pain. However, serious issues from the past are essential to discuss in therapy. You could heal yourself in ways you never knew possible.
Stress, Anxiety, and Other Strong Emotions
If you suffer from extreme stress, anxiety, and other strong emotions, therapy is a great way to identify what is causing these intense feelings and discuss how to manage them.
Some stress and anxiety levels are normal and can come from events in everyday life, which can be manageable on your own. However, severe stress that doesn’t ease up might require extensive therapy and treatment.
Identify Destructive Patterns
Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. Maybe you subconsciously put yourself in an abusive relationship or dangerous situation. Perhaps you are bad with money or time. Maybe you struggle with poor self-image and worth.
No matter your struggles, a good therapist can help you identify where these specific patterns exist and navigate you through them to develop better behaviors and make better choices.
Identify and Treat Mental Health Disorders
A therapist can help diagnose underlying mental health issues and conditions. What you talk about in therapy can provide much information on your mental state. This can eventually lead to a possible diagnosis of a mental health condition you didn’t know you had.
In therapy, a professional can assess how you feel, act, think, and behave to see if something is going on beyond your control, then offer a helpful treatment plan, whether coping skills or medications.
Types of Mental Health Disorders
If you talk to a therapist and they notice a pattern in behavior or discover the common signs of a mental health disorder, they can either treat you or send you to someone else.
A few of the most common forms of mental disorders include
- Panic disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders
- Post Traumatic disorder (PTSD)
- Antisocial personality disorder
How Many Therapy Sessions Do I Need?
The amount of therapy you need will depend on the severity of your situation. Some people can go for weeks before their next session, while others may need to see a therapist twice a week.
For most people, therapy is something you do once a week, giving you time to gather your thoughts, explore your feelings, and prepare yourself for the next appointment.
Before you consider ending therapy, you want to ensure you are ready. You have to be in a good place mentally and physically, so you don’t fall back into the same destructive or harmful routines.
A significant factor that plays a role in people quitting therapy before they are ready is time. One of the biggest excuses people have is they don’t have enough time in the day to add in any extra appointments. Luckily, there is a solution.
No Time is No Longer an Excuse
When most people think about therapy, they think about old-fashioned people in personal conversations, sitting in an office or small room on a comfortable couch. While this is still an excellent option for those who feel comfortable doing it, it isn’t the only option.
Consider Virtual Therapy
Advanced technology has paved the way for accessible therapy for everyone. If you don’t have the time, transportation, or feel uncomfortable talking to a therapist face to face, you now have the option of going virtual.
Virtual therapy, otherwise known as telemedicine, gives you access to your therapist from your smart device or computer.
Each business is different, but some therapists are available by phone, video, or even text, thus making it easier than ever to get the help you need and deserve.
We also feature BetterHelp and numerous other providers on this site. Check out our buying guide.
Is There Anything You Shouldn’t Talk About in Therapy
There is no topic off limits when it comes to therapy. Your therapist is there to help you through anything, providing you with a person to talk to and will give you a sense of security and safety.
All too often, people downplay their problems or avoid specific topics altogether, worried about what the person on the receiving end of the conversation might think or who they might tell in more complicated situations.
As long as you are not a danger to yourself or someone else, everything you talk about with your therapist is confidential, and you can speak freely and truthfully. Doing so is the only way to start the process of healing and dealing.
If you are in the wrong place and having thoughts of suicide or are worried you may be a danger to another person, a therapist is one of the few people who can provide you with the best tools, treatments, and contacts to help you before any mistakes are made.
Should Couples Attend Therapy Together? What Should They Talk About?
Couples therapy is a great way to get to know each other better before you get married, before having kids, or when you feel like you’re falling out of touch.
A lack of communication is one of the most significant issues in relationships. Attending therapy together can help teach two people how to talk to one another with respect, compassion, and understanding.
You shouldn’t wait until your relationship is on the brink of divorce or a break-up; taking action at the first sign of trouble can make a massive difference in how you interact with one another, saving an otherwise fantastic match.
Summing Things Up
The topics you can talk about in therapy are endless. If you know your biggest struggles, a therapist can help you work through them. If you aren’t quite sure where your problems lie, a therapist will help you get to the bottom.
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel out of control, vulnerable, sad, or overwhelmed, seeking advice from a professional is one of the best things you can do for your mental health.
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