For some individuals, opening up to a therapist comes naturally and with ease. For others, and especially those with social anxiety, talking about oneself is daunting—even when a person knows it’s in their best interest to do so. Therapy requires a certain level of vulnerability, and deconstructing the walls we’ve used to protect ourselves can be difficult . If you’re experiencing hesitation about opening up, you’re not alone. Here are a few things you can do to ease the process.
5 Ways to Open Up to Your Therapist
1. Find the Right Fit
First and foremost, it’s important to find the right therapist FOR YOU. That means that even if a therapist checks all the boxes about what training they've had and what problems the commonly deal with, if you don't like your therapist, research says you won't get better as quickly and deeply as you will if you like your therapist. If you’re struggling with addiction, anxiety, or another issue, finding a therapist who specializes in helping patients who have experienced struggles similar to yours is a good place to start. I always suggest then trying the therapist on for size with a couple of sessions. There's no harm in realizing that you're not a good fit for a therapist, and moving to another one. When you’ve found a good fit, you’ll feel more comfortable and thus be more likely to share when you feel ready.
2. Be Open About Your Anxieties
While you may not be ready to open up about personal details and uncomfortable memories or experiences right away, it’s a good idea to discuss your concerns about sharing certain thoughts or feelings with your therapist. Simply telling them that you’re weary of revisiting certain memories can be enough. Effective psychotherapy requires flexibility from both the patient and the practitioner, so you can both collaborate on setting expectations and boundaries for therapy. There's a myth about therapy that you're going to be required to talk about painful childhood experiences. While that may or may not be helpful, it's certainly not required. If feeling better and liking life more is done be dealing with the present, then that's what the therapy should focus on.
And by the way-it's not required that you know what to talk about in every therapy session. It's ok to come in and let the work happen by itself.
3. Try Journaling
In many cases, not knowing what to talk about can cause stress in itself. To that end, having a general idea of what you’d like to discuss can help you prepare for sessions and open up about the topics you’re ready to address. One way to support this practice is to journal regularly. Write down thoughts and feelings you encounter in between sessions, and before each appointment, take a look back and see if there's anything you'd like more help with.
4. Take Slow Steps
You won’t have time to share your entire life story during your first session anyway, so don’t feel pressured to open up right away. Your therapist will guide you gradually, and you can start by sharing small details about your life as you feel comfortable.
5. Remember the Goal of Therapy
Oftentimes we’re hesitant to talk about certain issues for fear of judgment or reprimand. The objective of counseling, however, is to avoid those things. Instead, it’s to empower you to develop the skills, strategies, and techniques needed to overcome any challenges you may face. The role of your therapist is to help you, not punish you, in the hopes that you don’t have to worry that you’ll be judged or bossed around after sharing personal thoughts or experiences.
As an experienced therapist in Mountainside, NJ, Chuck Beardsley LCSW understands that opening up to a professional can take time. For this reason, he takes an individualized approach to counseling in order to find the best method for each patient and their unique circumstances. Learn more about his individual therapy services here or call (908) 274-3189 to schedule an appointment.