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Discussing Scary Topics in Therapy

by Andres Carrion | October 2021

Therapy is a wonderful place for individuals to explore various parts of themselves, gain insight on their lives, and get some relief. However, therapy can also be a place to discuss some scary things (that have nothing to do with witches, ghosts, or October). Therapy can be scary and anxiety inducing for various reasons. For some people, it can be scary from the very beginning if they have fears of vulnerability. For others it can be scary to talk about topics such as breakups, past traumas, ongoing stressors, or even termination of treatment. 

These topics can be scary to bring up because they require trust and vulnerability. You may have been holding onto these events for such a long time, that it may feel safer to keep them locked away. When you have kept something secret for so long, it may make you feel exposed to share this information with anyone, let alone a stranger. This makes it even more difficult because you also must establish trust with your therapist. You need to feel safe that they will not judge you, re-traumatize you, or break confidentiality. Rest assured that therapists have a code of ethics to follow, and they are required to ensure that treatment is both helpful and non-harmful. If you have experienced less-than-great care from a therapy, please know that these experiences are rare, and that most therapists are competent and compassionate.

If you are finding it difficult to bring up and discuss scary things in therapy, there are few things you can do. First, give yourself a break. Therapy is a marathon, not a race. There are no expectations for progress, and you are only in session about 1 hour a week. Go at your own pace, Second, spend some time building rapport with your therapist and establishing trust. Research shows that the biggest predictor for healthy outcomes in therapy is how close you are to your therapist. Third, make sure you are communicating how you feel with your therapist; this means how you feel emotionally or how you feel about their approach. Fourth, it’s important to set boundaries with yourself and with your therapist (just like any other relationship you have). Finally, if you are constantly feeling misunderstood, judged, or uncomfortable in therapy, it’s important to bring it up as this could be clinically significant. It could have something to do with the nature of the topic or even about the client-therapist fit. Above all, remember to be kind to yourself. It’s already a big step you are taking by being in therapy. 

While our physical offices are located in South Loop and Lakeview neighborhoods in Chicago, Illinois for in-person sessions, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more.