It may be good to talk, but for some people it can feel really bad. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve experienced trauma, take a while to trust or just come from a family that don’t ‘do’ feelings. Speaking out loud about your inner world can be frightening. I have to admit that when I first started attending counselling, I too found talking difficult. I’m definitely more of a listener than a speaker, plus my mum had always warned me off chatting about myself for too long. But within a couple of sessions I’d found my flow and was wishing I’d started earlier. So, if you’re thinking about counselling, but concerned you’ll find talking hard then these tips are for you.
1. Let your therapist know how you feel and what you want
Words don’t come flowingly to everyone, and most counsellors will already have some experience with clients who struggle to express themselves. Simply telling your counsellor how you feel prior to your session can really take the pressure off yourself. It also gives your therapist a chance to prepare some tools to help you access your feelings in other ways. Within the counselling room its common to use timelines, pebbles or clay, and these creative methods aren’t just reserved for children. In her book , The Creative Connection, psychotherapist Natalie Rogers writes, “Creativity and therapy overlap. What is creative is frequently therapeutic. What is therapeutic is frequently a creative process.”
If you suddenly start feeling anxious and closed up within your counselling session, then sharing this experience with your counsellor can allow you to work on it together. This feeling of panic, may indicate there’s a topic or a turn of phrase that’s triggering for you. But if nothing else please know that it’s really not unusual to clam up. Counselling sessions are not like in the Woody Allen films. For every client whosa able to sit down and eloquently express themselves, there are many others who will cry, stutter, stumble and generally find talking hard.
2. Feelings flow once trust grows
I love this saying, and not just because it rhymes. It is an odd situation to sit with someone you’ve never met before and reveal your innermost feelings. Some people can do it, but most need time to build up trust. Please don’t feel you need to tell your therapist everything straight away. It’s fine, to start with the less heavy things until you feel you have a rapport. I majored in Psychology, and have a diploma in counselling. But I am not psychic and I can’t read minds, and I bet your counsellor can’t either. I only know what my clients tell me in a session. And understandably they’ll only tell me if and when they trust me. I had three sessions with my own counsellor before I felt I could bring my big issue, and even then I talked around it for an entire session.
My point is that you are the one in control. Every session you get to choose how much or how little to share. If there is something your counsellor can do to help you open up, then please let them know. Within the organisation I work for, there are clients who ask to see a counsellor from their own background. Understandably, they find the constant explaining of customs and culture impinges too much on the session and detracts from the quality of the counselling. So, if there is anything your counsellor can do to make your time together better, please let them know.
3. Don’t be scared of strong emotions
Some people say they can’t talk, but what they mean is that if they start talking they’ll end up crying. And while this may be frowned upon at work, it’s completely appropriate within the counselling room.
Your therapist’s office is absolutely the right place to cry, rage and, in short, express and explore all your emotions. There will be a box of tissues available and a trained mental health professional who’s willing to listen and go at your pace.
If you think your emotions are so strong and overwhelming that you find talking hard on your wellbeing, then please tell your therapist. You may have trauma. Trauma is treatable, but slightly different methods are used. Usually, a particular type of therapy called EMDR.
EMDR allows you to process your trauma without ever having to speak about the details to your therapist. You simply hold the traumatic images in your mind’s eye, while tracking your therapist’s finger with your eyes. It sounds a little odd, but it’s very effective and gets good results.
If you’re also the quiet type, but have managed to find therapy helpful, then I would love to hear your experience. Please comment below.