When people go to therapy, it’s because they want help working through something in their lives or in their heads – or both, of course. And while we may think our experiences are so different and unique that we should be ashamed of them, therapists know differently.
These 17 therapists are sharing the things their clients are often hesitant to share, but that they actually hear nearly every day.
17. You aren’t dangerous.
Recurring intrusive thoughts about harming others. Can be hurting/killing someone or sexual fantasies about children or relatives. Usually people take a while to admit those.
The reality is that if you are having them frequently you aren’t dangerous. You probably have OCD and are terrified that you might be dangerous.
16. It’s messy and real hard.
Being tired of being a mother. There’s this social thing of loving your kids and they should be the first thing in your life, but having a child is messy and a real hard work, is normal to just want to take a break once in a while from all that responsibility.
15. It’s a real issue.
I work in an older adults service for people with dementia and mental health problems. I see a lot of family members/Carers feeling ashamed of the fact that they are finding it incredibly difficult to care for someone that has dementia or a chronic mental health problem.
Carer burnout is a real issue and people need to know that it’s not easy to see someone you love struggling every day, or slowly fading away month by month. Carers and family members desperately need time for themselves and need to know that it’s okay to feel the way that they do.
No one is superhuman and we all have our own needs. It’s why we have therapy groups for Carers. It’s okay to struggle to look after someone and you should in no way feel ashamed of having those feelings.
14. More than a clean house.
OCD gets misunderstood a lot. It’s not just having a clean house or liking things to be organized.
Common intrusive thoughts can include violent thoughts of harming children and other loved ones, intrusive thoughts of molesting children, fear of being a serial killer etc.
My clients can feel a lot of shame when discussing the thoughts or worry I will hospitalize them.
13. An “internal voice.”
That they “hear voices”. I’ve found that a lot of people aren’t familiar with their own internal dialogue or “self talk” and that this is typically “normal” internal processing. A lot of people think that they are “hearing voices” and hallucinating. There are some pretty simple questions we can ask to determine if it’s hallucinating or just internal dialogue, and most often it’s the latter.
I want to clarify that not everyone has am internal “voice”. Some have none at all, some have more of a system of thoughts that aren’t verbal, feelings, or images. That’s normal too!
12. So much guilt.
A lot, and I mean A LOT, of people who experienced s^xual abuse feel very guilty for a myriad of reasons that are not their fault.
Guilty for “attracting the attention”
Guilty for not speaking up
Guilty for enjoying being “seen” by someone
Guilty for having any sort of pleasure from their abuse.
All those feelings are common and addressed in therapy. But it is so hard for people to discuss it.
11. They need to know.
I’m support worker (social worker) not a therapist.
I’ve had clients too scared to tell me their accomplishments because they think they should only be bringing their problems to case management and that if we see them getting better that we won’t care/prioritize them as much
Another is hard drugs. We don’t endorse it by any means but we have to know if we need to keep an eye out for inappropriate behavior and overdoses. We never get mad at them for being high, we just wanna send them to their room to sober up.
10. Yes, it’s normal.
Many of my clients lived through severe childhood trauma and neglect. They had no one to model or explain healthy emotions or to show them appropriate ways to react to stress, fear, anger, etc.
Most often they’ll describe a completely normal reaction to a stressor and then follow that up with “I don’t know if that’s normal.”
These are adults who were exposed to so much dysfunction during their formative years that they don’t know whether it’s normal to cry when they’re anxious or afraid, feel angry when their boundaries have been violated, etc.
9. It’s more common than people think.
When I was in private practice, I specialized in Borderline Personality Disorder. I did DBT, which is the evidence-based treatment for it, but there is so much shame and stigma around having BPD I have seen providers hesitate to diagnose it.
My favorite sessions were the ones where I would talk about why and how people get BPD and seeing the relief on people’s faces when a therapist can see that this is also something happening TO them and that there is a type of therapy specifically designed to help…those were my favorite sessions.
And, to answer the question correctly, BPD. BPD is much more common than people think.
8. A physical impact in the body.
I work with a lot of anxiety and trauma clients Whenever I ask if they would describe their experience as being anxious about being anxious, I get a lot of ‘omg, yessss.’
Anxiety has such a physical impact in the body (heart pounding, trouble breathing, feeling faint or cold, tunnel vision) that we become aware of our body’s reaction before we even notice the anxious thoughts triggering the reaction.
Then we panic about why our bodies are flipping out when we’re not even aware of feeling threatened, and the anxiety compounds on itself.
Anxiety is like an alarm system in our bodies to signal the presence of (real or perceived) danger. What would you do if your alarm was going off at your house?
Check to see if there’s a real threat (scan your environment/situation to ground yourself in the present), turn off the alarm (breathing exercises do help, along with mindfulness techniques like body scans), and then investigate what tripped the alarm (process thoughts around the situation that read like danger to you). It’s also important to note that danger doesn’t need to be a gun getting pulled on you.
Panicking during a presentation that could impact your job and threaten the way you pay your bills and afford your life can feel pretty dangerous if you think about it.
7. Those darker urges.
Did clinical work for about 5 years and heard just about everything ten times over.
But seriously, people are often reluctant to talk about their darker urges and feelings. Therapy is likely the only chance where you’ll get to have that conversation openly and honestly.
Therapists know everyone has this side to them, and working on it is both difficult and admirable.
6. Totally sad.
As someone in the substance abuse field I know that it’s difficult for clients to tell me they got high with a parent but it’s something I get told fairly regularly.
It’s kinda sad.
5. No need to feel badly.
Hello, therapist here. There are several:
Speaking to their departed loved ones. Thankfully, theories now support this and don’t consider it to be a sign they’re not “moving on with their lives”. I encourage my clients to explore the continuation of their relationships with the deceased.
Small ways they’ve made progress in the week. I know this isn’t technically weird, but my clients sometimes don’t want to tell me this, either because they fear I’d turn round and say they don’t need therapy any more, or because I might find the progress unnoteworthy. Both of which are totally untrue!
That they’re having bizarre intrusive thoughts of hurting themselves/others, s^xual fantasies and so on. As a therapist, I’m trained to appreciate the whole world that lies between thoughts and action, and all it really proves is that we have an imagination. It’s highly unlikely I’ll need to break confidentiality, and won’t call the police immediately.
S^x related things in general. Eventually we’ll talk about s^x, and I’ll see a weight lifted off their shoulders for how unphased I am by their apparently weird s^x life.
Honestly, it’s rarely that weird, and we all have kinks. Life is fruitful, there’s no need to be ashamed.
4. So much shame.
That they haven’t had s^x with their partner in years and don’t know how/if they will ever have s^x with their partner again.
There is so much shame around s^x in the USA that a lot of people are scared to talk to their partner about their s^xual needs.
Time goes by, and suddenly they haven’t had sex in 3, 5, 10 years. It starts for a lot of people in their 40s and 50s.
A lot of people (falsely) believe there is something wrong with their marriage because they fantasize about people other than their partner.
3. You need an advocate.
Sexual side effects of medication; losing your s^x drive is a common effect of SSRIs and when I meet with patients after they’ve been prescribed, I’ll ask about whether they’ve noticed a difference.
Often, they have but are worried about telling their prescriber. I will advocate for them to do so and it is usually a positive experience for them.
2. They’ve heard it all.
Everything. You name it, I’ve heard it. You regret having your child and wish you never became a mom? Okay.
You love your spouse but their cancer came back again and you don’t know how you can go through this fight again? Yeah, I get that.
Hard drugs? S*%t, it’s been a hard year.
You wanna quit your well paying job to sell carved soap figurines? Okay well let’s talk through what that might look like.
You like to collect teddy bears because they give you a special lil tingle in your nether regions? I don’t kink shame.
Seriously. We’ve heard everything. EVERYTHING.
Unless it’s someone newish to the field (less than five years maybe) it’s generally not going to shock us. And whatever it is, even if it does seem a bit of a unique circumstance, we’ll get the underlying feeling under it.
In the end, everyone wants the same overall things – to feel heard, to be loved, to take care of their loved ones, to manage stress, etc. Humans do the best they can, and therapists are there to help, but we can’t provide guidance if you don’t give us a chance, and that means opening up.
I know it’s scary and some therapists do suck. It’s a lot like dating. If you don’t click with the first one, move on until you find one you do click with.
1. You deserve a therapist.
I have come across a lot of people who also think they’d “bore” a therapist with their everyday problems and that they don’t want to take up resources for people “who will need it more”.
I’ve even had clients who were very close to actual suicidal thoughts thinking that others are worse and will need the therapist more then they do. Clients usually try to compare the severity of their problems to the problems of other people. That doesn’t work.
As soon as somebody has the urge to talk about their problems, the client and their issue needs to be taken as seriously as the next clients’. Be it a shit job, an unhappy marriage or hearing voices.
Additionally, I highly appreciate talking about someone’s shitty job instead of someone’s severe depression because they thought they didn’t need to do anything about it earlier.
I’m honestly not surprised at all.
If you can’t be honest with your therapist, find a new one.