Therapy can be super awkward. And necessarily so if you’re discussing difficult material. Even if you are talkative and gregarious, you might not know what to say during certain parts of your therapeutic journey. This can be even more of a challenge during online texting therapy because you don’t get your therapist’s visual cues that might prompt you to say something more on a topic.
To help you continue therapy without hesitation when you’re feeling stuck, shy, or just don’t know what to discuss, we created this guide for communicating with therapists online. Use it as a reference whenever you draw a blank or aren’t sure what to say.
Starting the Conversation With Your Therapist
How do I talk to my therapist?
At the start of therapy you might not know how to initiate a conversation with your therapist. Starting the discussion is hard, but important to the process of building a bond with your therapist. To start a conversation, you can talk about your daily activities or a particular day you’ve had. Share something about your life to establish a connection. You can share whatever is pressing your mind at the moment, even if it is unrelated or seems insignificant. Communicating with your therapist becomes easier with time, once you know your therapist better and your connection is established, so don’t sweat it!
Your therapist will most likely ask several questions to get the ball rolling. Nonetheless, there will be times during the beginning of therapy when you might need to start the conversation. If you can’t think of anything, try one or more of the following:
Talk About a Day in Your Life
What do you do when you get up in the morning? What do you think about? How does going to work make you feel? What about before you go to sleep? What are your routines?
Asking yourself these questions should build momentum. It can also highlight mental health issues or simply concerns that might have previously been in the background.
Discussing daily habits will give your therapist a sense of how you are taking care of your mental health. He or she can then suggest additions, modifications, or alternatives.
Complete These Sentences
“Today, I’m feeling…”
“I really need to talk about…”
“Something that not a lot of people know about me is…”
Even if they don’t point to your most pressing issue, these prompts are always a great way to bond with your therapist and express your feelings. The better the therapeutic bond, the more progress you can make.
Note: Feel free to use these tips any time you have trouble beginning a chat with your therapist, not only during the first conversation.
Say the First Thing On Your Mind
Therapy is one of those wonderful, rare places where you can completely let go and ignore normal social standards. If you are having trouble actively thinking of anything to say, jot down the first thought you have. It doesn’t need to be pretty, grammatically correct, or structured. You can even blurt it out in a voice message, no matter how random it is. Even if the thought is about how you can’t think of anything to say or feel stuck, that’s OK.
Unlike a standard social setting, there will be no negative consequences for this. Therapists will not judge you. If it starts the dialogue, it is worth putting down on paper and documenting.
If Your Therapist Upsets You
If your therapist says something that hurts or offends you, feel free to share these feelings with him or her. Being open and honest will ultimately make therapy better. The “I’m mad at you” conversation is awkward but worth having.
It is normal to sometimes feel hurt during therapy. This can mean you are digging into the painful, difficult issues that are preventing you from living your best life. Therapists are supposed to occasionally challenge and push you to become a better version of yourself.
Here is a template you can use to raise the issue:
“Hi [insert name of therapist],
You said [insert text that upset you] the other day and it made me feel [feeling]. I wanted to express myself so we could continue being honest and open with each other.”
Asking for Changes
Sometimes the strategies your therapist tries will not work as well as both of you would like. If you occasionally don’t feel satisfied with therapy, that’s OK. Communicate these concerns to your therapist. He or she will adjust the treatment to meet your needs.
For more in-depth advice and insights on this issue, read “How to Ask Your Therapist for Changes.”
Feeling confident and well enough to end therapy is a joyous occasion. To mark it, consider expressing your feelings and sending a thoughtful goodbye note to your therapist. Doing so might provide an extra, final benefit.
“To allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling and share your experience with your therapist can be very empowering for your journey,” said Talkspace therapist Scott Christnelly.
Ending therapy is also an opportunity to reflect on everything you have accomplished. What changes have you noticed? How are you feeling differently? And remember, it’s always easy to return to your online therapist should you need to.
Communicating Well in Therapy Will Help You in Every Part of Life
Learning to effectively communicate your thoughts and feelings in therapy will ultimately become a skill you can use in everyday life. Think of therapy as a training ground for awkward or difficult conversations you will inevitably need to have with friends, family, romantic partners, and co-workers. If you make the most of your training, the real deal will be much easier.