Are you struggling in therapy? Do you have questions you want to ask your therapist but don’t? Do you hesitate to ask them because you’re not sure if you can?
You’re not alone. Every day, thousands of people ask Google questions that only a therapist can answer.
As a licensed therapist myself, I’m here to help. After spending hours analyzing search queries on Google, I compiled a list of 12 questions that clients seem to want to know about their therapist (or about therapy).
With that in mind, let’s dive in.
- 1. Does My Therapist Like Me?
- 2. Does My Therapist Care about Me?
- 3. Do Therapists Ever Fall in Love with Their Clients?
- 4. Do Therapists Get Attached to Clients?
- 5. Does My Therapist Think About Me Between Sessions?
- 6. How Do I Know if My Therapist is a Good Fit for Me?
- 7. Can I ask My Therapist What He Thinks of Me?
- 8. How Do I Tell My Therapist Something Hard/Embarrassing?
- 9. Should I Tell My Therapist About Drug Use?
- 10. Does My Therapist Have to Report Suicidal Thoughts?
- 11. Can I Be Friends with My Therapist After Therapy?
- 12. What should I never tell my therapist?
1. Does My Therapist Like Me?
Of all the questions you want to ask your therapist, this has got to be the most common. Every client struggles with this question to some degree. We all yearn for acceptance, positive regard, and validation, especially from people we respect. Therapists know our deepest secrets and our darkest fears, so it’s only natural to wonder if they like us.
The truth is that it doesn’t matter if they like you. But I’ll bet they do.
The real question is this — do you like yourself? If you do, then you know that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. If you don’t — well, that’s something you need to address with your therapist.
Having said that, here’s my response to the question “Does my therapist like me?”
- Therapy is one of the bravest things you can do.
- It means that you want to make a positive change.
- It means you’re willing to take ownership of your life, roll up your sleeves, and do some hard work.
- It takes a tremendous amount of courage.
For those reasons alone, I both like and respect all my clients. And I’d be shocked if most therapists didn’t feel that way, too.
Keep in mind that therapists try to avoid seeing things in black-and-white terms. We embrace the grays of life, and of people too. It’s not a question of like or dislike. We don’t think in those terms.
But I still think they like you. I mean, what’s not to like?
2. Does My Therapist Care about Me?
Therapists get into this field because they want to help others, which is to say that they care about people. You don’t last long in this profession if you don’t.
But “does my therapist care about me?” you ask.
And my response to that is that you are asking the wrong question. Instead, look at the following list and answer all the questions I recommend you ask yourself instead. Then, you’ll have your answer.
- Do they treat you with respect?
- Do they honor your right to privacy?
- Do they listen to you without judgment?
- Are they warm and empathetic?
- Are you validated and supported?
- Do they understand you?
- Are they present and focused during the session?
- Are you comfortable talking to them?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, you can rest assured that your therapist cares about you. If you answered no, it might be time to make a change.
3. Do Therapists Ever Fall in Love with Their Clients?
So, you want to ask your therapist if they have personal feelings for you? It’s doubtful. Here are three reasons why:
- First, it’s unethical for a therapist to fall in love with a client. It compromises their judgment and objectivity.
- Second, well-trained therapists are professionally detached from their clients. They may be warm and friendly, but therapeutic intimacy is different from romantic intimacy.
- Third, a good therapist has strong emotional and professional boundaries. Think of these as invisible shields that protect both of you. Clients need a strong, objective presence to lead them on a journey of self-discovery. To do that, therapists have to maintain an emotional distance.
Having said that, on rare occasions, some therapists have fallen in love with their clients. It never ends well. Therapists answer to ethics boards that forbid sexual relationships with clients. The consequences are severe, ranging from censure to prison time.
If a therapist acts on that love, their career is over. And if they do develop feelings for their client, they should refer them to another clinician. Their feelings are most likely an example of counter-transference, which has more to do with the therapist’s own issues than actual love.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Be mindful of projection, which is when you project your own feelings onto someone else. Could it be that you have feelings for your therapist and not the other way around?
- Therapists adhere to a strict code of conduct that forbids inappropriate relationships.
- You may feel more comfortable seeing a same-sex therapist, which is always your choice.
- You have the right to ask for a referral if you feel uncomfortable.
- You can and should report any unethical behavior to the licensing board.
4. Do Therapists Get Attached to Clients?
If a therapist has been seeing a client for a considerable amount of time — say, more than six months — it’s hard not to get attached. As with any relationship, some connections are stronger than others. It’s an inevitable byproduct of a strong therapeutic relationship.
But good therapists maintain good boundaries. As much as we do get attached to some clients, our goal is to eventually discharge them when they no longer need therapy.
Clients have a right to autonomy, which is the right to be self-governing. That means that you learn from your mistakes, find your own solutions, and make your own decisions. It’s hard to achieve autonomy if your therapy is never-ending.
- The goal of therapy is to help clients get to a point where they no longer need therapy.
- How long that takes depends on the client and his or her needs.
- Your therapist won’t take it personally when you move on.
5. Does My Therapist Think About Me Between Sessions?
Don’t take it personally, but your therapist isn’t thinking about you between sessions.
Here’s why they don’t think about you between sessions:
- Most therapists carry top-heavy caseloads and see clients back to back five days a week.
- A good therapist sees about 25–35 clients a week and carries a caseload of twice that.
- We also have progress notes to write and meetings to attend.
- There’s only so much RAM in our brains to keep track of everybody.
We don’t often have the time to stop and think about clients who aren’t in our office. It’s nothing personal. It’s not that we don’t care.
Most therapists set aside time each day to reread progress notes, staff cases with supervisors, return phone calls, and write emails. During those moments, they’ll think about you.
So the answer is, they think about you when they can, and when doing so is in your best interest.
6. How Do I Know if My Therapist is a Good Fit for Me?
At the top of the list of questions you want to ask your therapist should be “are we a good fit?” It’s an outstanding question.
I urge you to actually ask your therapist. Don’t worry — a good one won’t get offended.
If you want to know if your therapist is a good fit, ask yourself the following:
- Does my therapist demonstrate expertise?
- Do I connect with my therapist?
- Am I comfortable talking to them?
- Do I trust them?
- Do they listen to me?
- Do I feel safe?
- Does my therapist have empathy for what I’m going through?
- Am I making progress?
If you can answer yes to most of those questions, your therapist is probably a good fit. But you should reevaluate this from time to time. Your needs often change throughout the course of psychotherapy.
If you feel that you might be more successful with another clinician, you have a right to ask for a referral.
7. Can I ask My Therapist What He Thinks of Me?
Yes, you can, and yes you should. This is a reasonable question to ask a therapist.
From the moment we meet a new client, we begin something called a “case conceptualization.” Think of this as a full analysis of who you are and why you’ve come to therapy.
Case conceptualization can include any of the following:
- Potential diagnoses
- Personality issues
- Trauma histories
- Your level of insight and development
- Adverse childhood experiences
- Current level of functioning
- Bio-medical complications
- Previous participation in therapy and outcomes
- Current medications and compliance history
- Educational, occupational, and social standings
- Assets and liabilities
- What interventions might serve you best?
So, your therapist is in an excellent position to tell you what he thinks of you.
More than likely, they will frame it in such a way that you feel supported and validated.
Ask away. You might be surprised at their positive assessment of you.
8. How Do I Tell My Therapist Something Hard/Embarrassing?
This question illustrates how many clients misunderstand therapy. Before I answer this, it’s important to point out a few things:
- Your therapist is not your friend. Your therapist is an objective, neutral third-party.
- Your therapist has heard it all. I guarantee you won’t shock them.
- Well-trained therapists are mindful of their reactions.
- Well-trained therapists embrace congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy.
- Your therapist is going to judge you clinically, not morally.
- Your therapist is going to protect your confidentiality.
With all that in mind, there is no right or wrong way to disclose hard or embarrassing things in therapy. You simply tell them. If you need to write it all down first, do that. If you want to grab a box of tissues and sob while you tell your story, you can do that, too. The choice is yours.
The fact is, much of what we discuss in therapy is either hard to talk about or embarrassing. That’s why you’re in therapy.
Feel free to tell them that you need to talk about something hard or embarrassing. Tell them about your concerns. Ask questions if you need to. As I said, there’s no right way. The only wrong way is to not say anything at all.
9. Should I Tell My Therapist About Drug Use?
Most clients aren’t comfortable talking about substance use. Many of them fail to see the connection between their use and the reasons that brought them to therapy.
So, should you tell your therapist about drug use? Always. Even marijuana use, which many people think is harmless. It’s not. Drugs have adverse effects on mental illness, so disclosing your substance use history is critical.
Often, it’s not the substance use that’s the problem — it’s why a client is using them. I have no moral reservations about drugs. But if my client is self-medicating, that’s a crucial piece to explore in therapy.
Think about your substance use history and consider the following:
- Does my use ever cause problems with my relationships?
- Does it affect my school or work?
- Am I suffering any physical problems as a result of my use?
- Have I run afoul of legal issues as a result of my use?
- Are my psychological symptoms worsening as a result of my use?
If you answered yes to one of these questions, you should be open and honest about it during your sessions.
10. Does My Therapist Have to Report Suicidal Thoughts?
The short answer is “no”. Suicidal thoughts are common. They are associated with many prevalent mental disorders, including anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
If you’re under 18, the rules change. Your therapist must disclose any potential safety issues with your parent or guardian, so talk with your therapist about the limits of confidentiality.
That said, there is a huge difference between suicidal thoughts and suicidal intent. If you have a plan or a history of suicide attempts, your therapist is going to do what they need to do to keep you safe. This can range from developing a safety plan to referring you to the local emergency room.
I urge you to disclose any instances of suicidal ideation or intent with your therapist. They can’t help if they don’t know. And if it can’t wait until your next session, dial 911 or head to your local ER.
Some points to consider:
- Laws vary by state and municipality
- The rules are not the same for adults and minors.
- Suicidal thoughts are common; suicidal actions and intent are cause for concern.
- Your safety is always the priority. It supersedes everything else.
- You have worth, and you matter.
You can’t defeat the darkness by keeping it caged inside of you.— Seth Adam Smith
11. Can I Be Friends with My Therapist After Therapy?
It makes sense, doesn’t it? You spend all that time with your therapist. You trust them. You like them. You feel safe with them. Why wouldn’t you want to pursue a friendship with them?
Unfortunately, there are a few problems:
- First, it’s unethical for many therapists to have a dual relationship with their clients.
- Second, therapists aren’t allowed to violate a client’s right to privacy.
- Third, the power dynamics of a therapeutic relationship are unequal. Your therapist knows everything about you, but you know almost nothing about them. While they are a trusted authority, your entire relationship centers around your needs. That’s not fair, nor is it the foundation of a healthy relationship.
These problems don’t go away once you stop therapy. Confidentiality is eternal and you can’t rescind it. Ethical and legal mandates remain in place long after your discharge.
12. What should I never tell my therapist?
In most respects, the answer to “what should I never tell my therapist” is “nothing.” Everything is on the table during therapy. Everything.
In fact, the more you think you shouldn’t say it, the more it should be said.
Look at the following list. How comfortable are you with disclosing the following?
- Things you don’t like about yourself
- Family History
- Medical Conditions
- Whom you love (or hate)
- Your Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
- Emotional, physical, sexual, or verbal abuse
- Your Childhood
- Your parents and other caregivers
- Addictions and Bad Habits
- Relationship History
- Sexual History
- Substance Use History
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Homicidal thoughts
- Delusions and Hallucinations
- Religious Beliefs
- Attitudes about Medication
- Financial Status
- Educational and Work History
- Legal Troubles
- Psychological Problems
Which ones on the list do you feel comfortable discussing? Which ones make you uncomfortable?
You should also know though that all disclosures are not created equally.
If you tell your therapist that you plan to kill yourself, they are going to take steps to make sure that doesn’t happen. If you tell your therapist that you plan to murder someone, they are obligated to warn them.
When in doubt, ask your therapist if it’s okay to talk about certain subjects. They’ll guide you. There’s no such thing as a dumb question in therapy.
Therapy is a remarkably effective tool for change. The vast majority of clients report significant benefits. At the heart of the matter is the rapport that you build with your therapist. It doesn’t matter if they are an expert in their field — if the two of you don’t connect, your therapy won’t be effective.
Unfortunately, unasked questions are a barrier to the therapeutic relationship, which means they are a barrier to therapy. If you have questions of any sort, you need to ask them. You needn’t worry about your therapist. They know what they’re doing. They field questions for a living.
Questions spark conversations. Conversations build rapport. And rapport enhances therapy. So whether it’s awkward, embarrassing, or hard, you should feel free to ask anything you want. Your therapy will only get better once you do.
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