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.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT?
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.
ABOUT THIS LIST
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
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.
MISTREATMENT OF OTHERS
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 THAT LAST TOO LONG
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.
THOUGHTS THAT LAST TOO LONG
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.
TALK ABOUT YOUR SUCCESSES
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!