What To Tell A Therapist

Self-Therapy For People Who ENJOY Learning About Themselves

If you've never been in therapy you might wonder what people talk about week after week in those oh-so-private little offices.

That's what I'm going to tell you.

If you are in therapy now this topic can help you to decide what to talk about if you ever feel stuck.


It's not the therapist's job to tell you what you should change. It's the therapist's job to help you to change what you WANT to change. And it's your job to tell them what that is.

Don't expect the therapist to kind of take you on a "tour of your life" to point out everything you could possibly change. You need to look at these possibilities yourself and tell your therapist what you discover.


This list is presented in order, starting with the most important items.

But anything you find on this list is well worth telling your therapist about. (Talking about a problem near the bottom of the list often leads you to recognize other problems nearer the top.)


Tell your therapist about how you take care of your body.

If you think of suicide,
if you don't eat or sleep enough,
if you hold off on going to the bathroom,
if you purposely or repeatedly harm yourself in any way at all,
you must get help with these things.



Your therapist always wants to know how much you value yourself.

Pay attention to the self-talk that goes on in your head. If you have thoughts like "I'm worthless"
or "I'm no good" or "I should just hide," or if you frequently have milder thoughts like "What's wrong with me," your therapist needs to know.

And if you are badly mistreated by others and you just "take it" - without leaving their presence
and maybe even without even demanding that they stop - this also shows a big self-worth problem.

Your therapist needs to be continually aware of where you are along a continuum from the horrors of self-hate to the calm self-assuredness of self-love.


If you find yourself being cruel toward others, even if you regret it afterwards, tell your therapist.

If you do too much of this you can end up desperately alone. (If you have this problem you probably already feel alone most of the time.)


Anything that you think you must do that isn't a biological necessity may be an addiction.

Some of these things are serious and life-threatening and others aren't even a problem. But since addiction always includes some level of denial, tell your therapist about all of them.


Feelings like sadness, anger, scare and even intense joy and excitement are supposed to be short-lived. They are supposed to change regularly, in reaction to the actual events in your life.

When you feel any of these emotions continuously for days, weeks, or months, something is wrong. Your therapist can help you find the core of the problem and fix it.


Some people "think too much" in a general sort of way. They say it seems like their head is always racing and they just can't turn off all that thinking.

Other people "think too often" about specific things. They need to find out why they keep thinking about that thing that happened to them years ago,
or that mistake they made,
or that mistake they might make,
or that thing they saw on TV last month.

Anything you keep thinking about over and over contains important clues about what you need
and how you can improve your life.


Tell your therapist about major happenings in your life and what they mean to you.

They need to know about big problems, promotions, demotions, fears, and achievements at work.
They need to know about major events in each of your important relationships. They need to know when you are strongly affected by news events.

Anything that has emotional impact in your life is important to talk about, good or bad.


Therapy is not just about problems!

After the first few meetings you and your therapist won't always be talking about problems. You will be talking more and more about how you use your newly enhanced ability to overcome problems and to take greater advantage of opportunities


As good therapy moves along you will see problems from an "I-can-handle-it" perspective and you will find more and more reason to brag about your accomplishments!

Enjoy Your Changes!

Everything here is designed to help you do just that!

next: Were You Loved As A Child?

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 22). What To Tell A Therapist, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Last Updated: March 30, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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