Therapists are constantly thrown curveballs — unexpected questions they’ve never been asked — but, they’re trained to help with whatever comes their way. While questions they recieve vary, based on their specialties, age of clients, gender, race, etc., there are many questions that commonly come up among our Talkspace therapists.
We asked some of our therapists to share their most frequently asked questions and how they help clients work through them. The responses alluded to three common themes: the therapy process, how they can make progress (mostly with anxiety, depression, and sleep), and how they can improve their relationships in therapy. Below, we dive into these questions and explore what our Talkspace therapists have to say about them.
If a client doesn’t know much about therapy, or doesn’t personally know someone who has been in therapy, they can often be skeptical. After all, things that are unfamiliar are intimidating to some degree and there are all sorts of misconceptions about therapy.
Here are some of the most common questions therapists receive about therapy specifically:
Does therapy really work?
[Therapy does work] but it does not like a pill or a syrup. You need to be patient, learn about it. It requires us to take the time to look for the sources that caused the wound, clean and let it heal over time with much patience and self-love.
Looking for the right type of help is also important. A professional that specializes in our ‘emotional wound’ might be better prepared and equipped to assist than a friend or family member. Do your research, ask questions, and do not hesitate to open up and share with your therapist. We are not only trained to help others, we love what we do, and your emotional wellbeing is our priority.
How will therapy help me?
Therapy will help you depending upon your level of engagement and the connection between the two of us. There is no one right answer or method that is going to be effective for everyone, but if you are open and honest during therapy, and have a level of trust with your counselor, you are more likely to learn and grow from the experience.
Am I the only person to feel this sad/anxious?
Absolutely not, is my first response most of the time. Sadness and anxiety are emotions that many of us experience at one point in life. What varies is the levels of those emotions, going from mild to severe, and also how well we are prepared to protect ourselves from them.
Psychoeducation is an important tool when this question is asked. The more we know about what affects us, the easier it is to eradicate the negative symptoms.
Can you help me?
It’s common for clients to want to know a) if therapy will be beneficial and b) if I, as their therapist, can be the person to make them feel better. I typically approach this question with an assurance that they’re in the right place. I let them know that it takes a lot of courage to reach out for help. It’s half the battle! Together we’re going to sift through everything that’s going on and determine a treatment path together. They aren’t alone.
Will I ever feel better?
I typically respond with a firm and positive, ‘Yes, you will.’ I also validate by adding that when we experience emotional pain, it is difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the suffering cannot last forever.
I then invite them to reflect on past difficult experiences and how most, if not all of them, have affected us before they get stored in our memories or completely forgotten. An invitation to see the situation as a learning experience is sometimes possible, while other times it is not. When possible, I ask the person to try to reframe and look for the positive side. When not possible, we process the pain, grief, or disappointment at the client’s pace and ensure they feel supported — and know they are not walking alone through the difficult times.
Have a Question for our Therapists?
Anxiety, Depression, & Sleep Disorders
Maybe a client feels they’re the only one who feels a certain way, or that their overwhelming feelings will never go away. Whatever type of feelings you’re overwhelmed by, a therapist knows how to help navigate them. While anxiety and depression are common reasons people seek out a therapist, many are surprised that a therapist can help with sleep difficulties.
How can I make this feeling go away?
I focus on helping individuals tolerate feelings without trying to push them away. Instead of trying not to feel something, I assist individuals with knowing that they can get through unpleasant feelings.
How can I get over anxiety / depression?
It takes time, patience, and willingness to process some of what’s happened in your life. Additionally, changing your mood can take practicing new skills and strategies, which can be challenging to use regularly when it’s all new. It helps to think of when you first started experiencing sadness and/or anxiety and what was going on in your life at that point. It can help to explore how to manage emotions in general, including what past messages you’ve gotten about emotions, and how to deal with them. For example, it’s common to hear, “stop crying,” or, “get over it,” which aren’t so helpful! Learning how to validate how you feel, and being okay with it, is a helpful start.
Can you help me get better sleep without meds?
Lack of sleep is a common symptom of so many of our mental health challenges. There could be several reasons as to why it’s tough to get to sleep. The first things to tackle are the most common. Avoid caffeine later in the day, stay away from screens before bed, get enough exercise, and establish a solid bedtime routine. After this, we dig deeper into managing symptoms of anxiety and depression that can be interfering and find ways to address sleep from a holistic perspective.
Relationships & Communication
It would be terrific if the honeymoon phase lasted forever, but relationships are complex and dynamic. There are bound to be tough times with your partner. Whether these tough times come from boredom, destructive behavior, or it’s just a natural plateau, you have options. All of these options require some work and commitment from both you and your partner, and a therapist can help. While couples counseling can be helpful, it’s also important to have a therapist to help navigate your own tricky feelings in your relationship. Individual counseling can help, too!
Here are the most common questions Talkspace therapists receive about relationships:
How can I let go of what my (parents, significant other, friend) did to me and forgive them?
Forgiveness is important, for your sake, so you’re not carrying around the bitterness or negativity. You can forgive someone without them knowing, without giving them permission to do it again, and without saying what they did was okay. Part of letting go is saying that you choose not to carry this burden any longer, which ultimately helps you. A relevant quote from Buddha: ‘Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.’
How do I change a specific person in my life?
I work with individuals to remind them that it’s not possible to change other people unless they want to change themselves. Instead, I help individuals focus on how to cope with that person’s behaviors and/or remove themself from the relationship.
How do I figure out if I want to stay in this relationship?
Figuring out if a relationship is viable is common. Relationships have ups and downs, and determining whether to stick it out or make the cut is tough. Everyone wishes they had a crystal ball to see into the future. What should I do? The best place to start is with yourself. Are you mostly feeling fulfilled, cared for, understood, lifted up, encouraged? Or are you mostly upset, angry, hurt, disappointed? This can give us a lot of information to start with.
How do I improve communication in my relationship?
Start with learning about common communication styles (assertive, passive, aggressive, and passive-aggressive) and what style you typically use. Identify goals for why it’s important to improve communication in your relationship and what’s making it difficult to do so. If the goal is to be more assertive, consider using ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements. For example, instead of, ‘You’re a jerk for doing this to me,’ try something like, ‘I feel really hurt when you weren’t honest with me.’
Whatever question you have for a therapist, they’re here to support you. Navigating feelings, mental illness, relationships, and career doesn’t have to be done alone. Getting professional help from a licensed therapist — during life’s toughest moments and everyday occurrences — can be life-changing. To start talking to a therapist today, give online therapy a try.