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Roamers Therapy I May 2024

Oftentimes, we come to therapy with an agenda. Our agendas can be specific goals, such as processing a trauma, learning to cope, or grieving a loss. These can all be helpful hopes to have in therapy. However, the agendas we come to therapy with can also be unhelpful. This can include specific things we want from our therapist, such as wanting our therapist to agree with us, to tell us what to do, to let us express our emotions however we want, or to pick a side (in couple’s therapy especially). It can be frustrating when our therapists do not do or say the things we want them to, but as frustrating as it can be, there is a reason for this. Therapists strive to be intentional and unbiased in their work with clients in order to help them achieve their long-term goals. In this therapy sketch, we will discuss the limits of the expectations from therapists.

Agreeing vs. Validating 

We may expect our therapists to agree when discussing relationship conflicts or certain behaviors. We may want our therapists to agree with us because we want our pain to be acknowledged and our behaviors to be justified. There is a difference between agreeing and validating. Therapists can certainly validate a client’s experience and feelings. We may feel acknowledged, recognized, or seen when a therapist validates us. However, when a therapist agrees with us, they may unintentionally justify our unhealthy behaviors or reinforce unhealthy coping strategies. This may be especially present when we are in relational therapy. In couples therapy, we may feel hurt, betrayed, or angry with one another and may expect our therapist to side with us. Keep in mind, in couple’s therapy, the therapist is not either partner’s therapist. The therapist is the relationship therapist. This means they need to remain neutral and create a space for both partners to share and have their feelings acknowledged. Furthermore, agreeing with us may negatively impact the therapeutic and professional boundaries of a therapist and client(s) relationship. 

Advising vs. Supporting

Another support we may want from a therapist is for them to tell us what to do. We may feel frustrated, hopeless, or abandoned when we come to therapy for advice or direction and do not get it. Our therapists care about us; just because they do not tell us what to do does not mean they do not want to or cannot help us. A therapist’s job is to support us and challenge us to make the best decisions for our situation. A therapist cannot tell us what to do because it can ultimately be more harmful than beneficial. A therapist does not know all the individuals in our lives or the nuances of our experiences, so if they tell us what to do, it can worsen the situation: this can reinforce unhelpful behaviors like conflict avoidance, anxious attachment, unhealthy coping, or diffusion of responsibility. Additionally, this creates an unhealthy dynamic between the therapist and client,  which can cause us to see the therapist as less of a support and more of an answer seeker. 

Expressing emotions comfortably vs. healthily

Lastly, we may sometimes want our therapists to allow us to express our emotions in the most comfortable ways, which may not be the healthiest. For example, we may sometimes want to vent, yell, or shut down. While there is nothing wrong with feeling sad, anxious, angry, tired, or overwhelmed, how we express those emotions can lead to negative outcomes. For example, if a therapist allows us to shut down or stonewall, they may reinforce an inability to express emotions properly. On the other hand, a therapist who lets us vent or yell when angry may be reinforcing outbursts or emotional reactiveness. Therapists want to support us in understanding, processing, and expressing our emotions more healthily and positively impactfully. 

It is important to provide your therapist feedback on what we may need. For example, if we are feeling unacknowledged, we can ask the therapist to validate our emotions. If unsure what to do, we can ask the therapist to help us process the situation and weigh each choice’s costs and benefits. If we want to learn how to manage our emotions and reactions better, we can ask the therapist to help us process our emotions and learn new ways to express and communicate our feelings. The therapeutic relationship is collaborative. It is okay to have expectations for therapy and ask your therapist for help while keeping in mind the limits of their support.


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.  

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.


While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, 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. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.