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Today, you probably don’t even flinch when a friend or family member tells you that they’re in therapy. It’s become wonderfully normalized, and talking about it has become about as casual as discussing the weather. “My therapist says,” is a pretty common way you hear sentences start these days – at least if you’re a millennial or Gen Zer, as over a third of each of these demographics have sought out therapy, according to research. Millennials even lead the charge in seeking couples counseling for their romantic relationships. Overall, we’re pretty cozy with the concept of therapy. However, older generations, as you may have guessed, don’t report seeking therapy quite as much. Of course, as for Baby Boomers who admit they have seen a therapist, those numbers may not even be accurate, since that generation isn’t as ready to confess that type of information. Luckily, if you’re ready to see a therapist or already are in therapy, you can feel rather confident that that’s something you can tell loved ones, without facing judgment. So you can relax about what others think, and focus on getting good work done on therapy. But are you?

 

Going to therapy is the most important step in your mental health journey. The very fact that you picked up the phone, made the appointment, and showed up already demonstrates a willingness to self-reflect, face hard truths, and even go through some uncomfortable growing pains. But, the very fact that you’re in therapy in the first place also demonstrates that there are some parts of your psyche and emotions you don’t fully understand, or don’t fully feel control over, which means that sometimes, you’ll get in your own way in therapy. I spent several years in therapy myself and didn’t see results for a while. It wasn’t the therapist’s fault: it was my own. I wasn’t being honest with him, partially because I wasn’t being honest with myself. But until you can do both, you won’t see much progress. Here are things to be honest with your therapist about.

therapy for women

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How the story went down

It’s important to remember that your therapist knows you aren’t perfect. She knows it because A) you’re human and B) you came to therapy because you were admitting there are behaviors you’d like to change. So there shouldn’t be a lot of embarrassment around sharing a story in which you weren’t your best self. The point of therapy isn’t to show your therapist that you always behave perfectly and that everyone else around you is the problem. That won’t be very useful. Your therapist isn’t treating those other people – she’s treating you. So, when telling her about a conflict that occurred with someone else, resist the urge to exaggerate their mistakes and downplay yours. Tell the story the way it went down. Otherwise, your therapist can’t help you.

therapy for women

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When you slip up

In therapy, you and your therapist may create some new guidelines for your behavior. Some examples may be, “I won’t talk to my ex anymore,” “I will not online shop when I’m upset,” “I won’t semi-stalk the new girlfriend of my ex anymore,” “I won’t make up lies about myself on first dates,” and things like that. You can likely imagine some examples for your specific situation. You may also slip up, and break some of these rules. Tell your therapist when this happens. Give her the real report on how you did following the rules. While it feels shameful to admit you slipped up, remember your therapist can only do a good job if she knows the truth about what you’ve been up to. There is even valuable information for her to explore from the fact that you slipped up. What triggered that? What happened right before? How did you feel after? What was different this time? What was the same? These are things she can explore with you, to help minimize the chances you slip up again.

therapy for women

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How your parents were

If you really love and respect your parents, you can be hesitant to tell any story that paints a negative portrait of them. That will be tough in therapy since therapists typically want to know all about your childhood. And they’re onto something because your childhood experiences greatly impact your wellbeing later in life, and your parents are largely in charge of what those experiences were. Everything from how much TV you were allowed to watch to how much you were hugged played a role in your mental wellness as an adult and your parents dictated those factors. So while you may want to say your parents were perfect, out of respect for the fact that they gave you life, put a roof over your head, and all of that, your therapist cannot help you if she doesn’t get a full picture of your childhood. And remember, if your parents are so wonderful, they’ll want you to get better in therapy. Talking about them is part of that.

 

therapy for women

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Things you feel ashamed of

Your shame is where you’ll get the most work done. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll start making progress in therapy. So whatever that is for you – sexual attraction to an inappropriate party, disordered eating habits, sleeping with a married man, compulsive stealing – just know that hiding it is just a waste of your time and money (therapy isn’t traditionally budget-friendly). Also know that, while you may think these things are unrelated to what you’re in therapy for, they’re probably related in some way. The human mind-body connection is a mysterious one and an unattended issue in one end can come out another end in a surprising way. Translation: the more information your therapist has, the better. You tell your doctor if you suddenly have terrible gas, right? So, what’s your “emotional gas?” How is that coming out? Tell your therapist.

therapy for women

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Whether or not you did the homework

Your therapist may give you homework. Some examples of assignments can look like: journaling every day, confronting someone you have an issue with, sticking to a boundary you set with someone, meditating every day, listening to episodes of a podcast, etc. If you lie to your therapist and say that you did the homework when in fact did not, you’re just doing yourself a disservice. Your therapist will move along in your treatment under the assumption you’ve been doing your assignments, but if you haven’t, then whatever steps she takes next will not be very beneficial to you. Her treatment plan goes hand in hand with you doing your homework.

therapy for women

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How long this issue has been going on

It can be hard to admit to yourself let alone somebody else how long you’ve ignored the problem for which you’re seeking therapy. But also know that many individuals do not realize they have an issue that requires professional mental health treatment for many years – if not their entire lives. Every therapist is very familiar with that truth and will not judge you for delaying therapy: they’ll just be proud of you for finally showing up for yourself. It’s also very important to be honest about when exactly the problem began because there is likely valuable information in that fact – information for your therapist to assess. Whether or not you realize it, something happened at a given time in your life that started this. A good mental health professional can connect those dots.

therapy for women

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What you want out of therapy

Be completely honest about what you want out of this. Even if it doesn’t sound good. Maybe you say, “I want someone to understand that my parents are abusive and abandon me and all my issues are their fault.” While I can almost certainly promise you your therapist will help you discover that that last part isn’t true (we always play a role in our issues), it’s good for her to hear what your honest-to-god, even if it isn’t pretty, desire is out of this. She may not get you what you want. But in learning what you want, she learns a lot about you and where you’re at mentally and emotionally. She’ll learn what you need. So just tell her what you want, right now, even if it doesn’t sound good.

therapy for women

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Whether or not you can afford her

Don’t feel embarrassed to tell a therapist that her price is too high for you. Therapy is the one place you’re supposed to be honest about all of your shortcomings, including financial ones. If you’re starting from a place of pretending to be wealthier than you are, you’re already starting from a lie, and that’s not good. Also, logistically speaking, spending more than you can afford will only bring more anxiety into your life, when anxiety might be the thing you’re trying to work on in therapy. So tell your therapist if you can’t afford her. She may do a sliding scale for lower-income clients, or she may be able to refer you to someone in your budget.

therapy for women

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Whether or not her style works for you

If you find that you don’t respond well to your therapist’s style, you can tell her that, too. Within the psychology community, there are a few mainstream forms of therapy. You may find you respond better to one than the other, or even to a combination of them all. But beyond that, there is your therapist’s personality. Some do tough love. Some coddle. Some share nothing about themselves. Some let you in a bit more. It’s okay to admit if your therapist’s style doesn’t work for you. She might adjust it for you, or refer you to someone who is a better fit.

therapy for women

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Thoughts of suicide

Always report to your therapist right away if you have new or increased thoughts of suicide. Don’t sit quietly, overwhelmed with how to combat these alone. Just take the one step of telling a mental health professional, and she will know what to best do with that information to keep you safe and help you get better. While such thoughts can be frightening to confront, especially if they are new to you, it’s very important to take them seriously and report them immediately. If you’re already in therapy, then you already have a professional in your life who is equipped to handle this information.

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