Communicating effectively with a psychotherapist is essential for maximizing outcomes in therapy.
One common complaint of people who have previously tried Psychotherapy is “My therapist just sat there and listened, but didn’t give me anything I could use” or “I didn’t know what to talk about.”
Sometimes therapists misread what a client needs from a session. This is not because the therapist is necessarily bad, but rather that they are human. Sometimes we’ll experience an excited client who is telling us about an event as needing to discuss it and we won’t interrupt, though the client may continue talking because they assume the therapist will jump in at some point. If this happens all the time, then you’ve got a problem. You can either ghost your therapist or -more productively and in line with a growth mindset- bring it up with them. We’re here to help you, and so this feedback helps us reposition ourselves in relation to you.
Another issue that unfortunately, inevitably, occasionally arises is misattunement. This refers to a situation in which the therapist and client are not on the same wavelength. This can happen when the therapist misunderstands the client’s needs, or when the client feels misunderstood by the therapist. Misattunement can lead to feelings of frustration, disappointment, and mistrust in the therapeutic relationship, and can negatively impact the effectiveness of the therapy.
There are several ways to repair misattunement in psychotherapy. One way is for the therapist to take responsibility for the misattunement and apologize to the client. The therapist can also take steps to better understand the client’s needs and concerns by asking for feedback and clarification.
Another way to repair misattunement is for the client to express their feelings to the therapist. The client can tell the therapist how they feel and what they need in order to feel understood and supported.
Both the therapist and client can also make an effort to actively listen to each other and to communicate more effectively. The therapist can use active listening skills such as paraphrasing, reflecting and summarizing what the client is saying, to help the client feel heard and understood.
The therapist can also use techniques such as empathy, validation, and support to create a safe and supportive therapeutic environment. This can help the client feel more comfortable opening up and sharing their thoughts and feelings.
Furthermore, different types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, emotion-focused therapy, and solution-focused therapy, may have different communication styles and techniques.
In cognitive-behavioral therapy, the therapist will often ask you to identify and challenge negative thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that are contributing to your symptoms. It is important to be open and honest with your therapist about these thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors so that they can help you to change them. For example, you can tell your therapist about a specific situation that triggered a negative thought or behavior, and together you can work on reframing that thought or behavior.
In psychoanalysis, the therapist will often focus on exploring your unconscious thoughts, feelings, and memories. It is important to be open and honest with your therapist about your feelings and experiences, even if they may be difficult to discuss. For example, you can tell your therapist about a dream or memory that is particularly troubling, and together you can explore the unconscious meaning of that dream or memory.
In emotion-focused therapy, the therapist will often focus on helping you to understand and accept your emotions. It is important to be open and honest with your therapist about your emotional experiences, even if they may be difficult to discuss. For example, you can tell your therapist about a specific situation that triggered a strong emotional response, and together you can work on understanding and accepting that emotion.
In solution-focused therapy, the therapist will often focus on helping you to identify and achieve your goals. It is important to be clear and specific with your therapist about what you want to achieve in therapy, and to provide feedback about your progress. For example, you can tell your therapist about a specific goal you have for therapy, such as reducing anxiety, and together you can work on strategies to achieve that goal
Here are some additional tips on how to communicate effectively with your psychotherapist:
Be honest and open: It is important to be honest and open with your therapist about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This will allow your therapist to better understand your situation and to provide you with more effective treatment.
Be specific: When discussing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, try to be as specific as possible. For example, instead of saying “I feel bad,” try to say “I feel anxious and overwhelmed.” This will help your therapist to better understand your experience and to provide you with more effective treatment.
Ask questions: If you don’t understand something that your therapist has said or if you want more information, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Be active in the treatment: Remember that therapy is a collaboration between you and your therapist. Be active in the treatment process by participating in exercises and homework assignments, and by providing feedback on your progress.
Mention your expectations: Tell your therapist what you expect to achieve through therapy and how you want to feel after completing your therapy sessions. Also, let your therapist know if you have any particular concerns or if you want to work on specific issues.
Be open to feedback: Remember that feedback is an essential part of the therapeutic process, so be open to feedback from your therapist. This will help you to understand your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors more clearly and to make changes that will lead to better outcomes.
Trust the process: Trust the therapeutic process and know that change takes time. Remember that therapy is not a quick fix, but rather a process that takes time and effort.
Be prepared for the session: Before going to your therapy session, take some time to think about what you want to discuss with your therapist. This will help you to make the most of your therapy session and to get the most out of the treatment.
By following these tips, you can communicate effectively with your psychotherapist and maximize your outcomes in therapy. Remember, therapy is a collaborative process, so it’s important to be open, honest, and actively engaged in the treatment.