Psychotherapy is full of both extraordinary potential benefits and some possible pitfalls. We’ve discussed some of those things in past entries. But there are some things in psychotherapy that you just shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about. They may seem important or worth worrying about, but it’s just a waste of your time, energy and focus. Here’s a few of them.
1. My therapist is judging me.
A lot of patients spend a lot of time worrying about what their therapist must think of them. That’s because you spend a lot of time sharing deep, emotional and personal stuff in therapy. Some of it may be embarrassing, or some of it may simply be out of the mainstream. Some of it may be things that happened to you as a child, that you had no control of. No matter what it is, you shouldn’t worry that your therapist is judging you. Believe it or not, most psychotherapists have seen and heard a lot of things in their careers. No matter what your story may be, it’s likely they’ve heard or seen worse.
One of the responsibilities and skills of a good therapist is to remain nonjudgmental, no matter their own personal reactions or feelings. Therapists who act or talk in a judgmental manner should be avoided.
2. Sometimes I just don’t know what to say or talk about.
You’re not alone. Virtually anyone who’s tried therapy has experienced a session where they feel hard pressed to come up with a topic to discuss. Some people — and some therapists — try and fill the void with small talk, or socializing. While this is fine if it happens on occasion, it should never be the focus of an entire session (or any significant portion of a session).
Silence is okay. Silence may be awkward at first, but it’s okay. While not every session should be full of many minutes of passing silence, it’s okay to sit quietly while you try and compose your thoughts. It’s also okay to not know what to talk about every session. That’s a normal and natural part of most psychotherapy. A good therapist will help you through this part, and in any case, it’s not something that should cause you much concern.
3. I’m not interesting enough — my therapist must be bored!
You don’t enter psychotherapy to entertain your therapist. While some people may believe they should have “interesting” things to talk about every session, that’s just not a realistic expectation — nor one that your therapist holds. You are there to get help for a specific mental health or relationship problem. Sometimes the conversations you’ll need to engage in to resolve that problem may not be very interesting. But they are all important, and you should recognize that “entertainment value” is not usually high on the list of the reasons psychotherapists enter the profession.
4. Should I know how this works? Should I feel the changes as they take place?
Psychotherapy is not like medications. You take an aspirin for a headache and the headache goes away. You go to a session of psychotherapy and you don’t immediately feel your pain relieved, your depression disappear, or your anxiety take a hike. Psychotherapy takes longer, and sometimes it’s hard to be patient, week after week of sessions.
You won’t know exactly how therapy works or when the changes will take place, as they will take place gradually, often in subtle ways. You may not feel them the same way you feel relief from a headache. You shouldn’t worry too much about this, as the process simply takes time and patience.
5. My therapist watches the clock.
Your therapist wears many hats, and one of those is as a small business person. Their commodity is time, and you’re paying for a portion of that commodity. Your therapist may indeed check the clock once in awhile because it’s in their best interests to do so and end your session on time. But surprisingly, it’s also in your best interests, too. By keeping your sessions on schedule, your therapist is also demonstrating and keeping good boundaries. The ability to keep good therapeutic boundaries is one of the indicators of a good therapist — someone who’s more likely able to help you.
So don’t be too concerned or worried if you catch your therapist glancing at the clock. It may be a little distracting, but it doesn’t mean your therapist cares any less about you. They’re just keeping the relationship professional and focused.