At first glance, therapy sounds like a breeze. I get to lie on a couch in an office with someone whose professional job it is to listen to me talk shit about my parents? Sure, sign me up!
But as many of us who enter into therapy discover, it's hard. Don't get us wrong — it's rewarding. But as they say, nothing good is ever easy. Unpacking your emotions takes real effort, and working through them is just that, work.
And since your therapist is essentially a stranger, it can sometimes be difficult to really open up. It can feel awkward or scary, even when you know that this person is basically barred by law from ever repeating a word of it. Just as there are things in our day-to-day lives that we're too embarrassed to tell our friends and family, there are things we sometimes keep from our therapists, too.
Of course, it's perfectly natural to have things that you'd rather keep to yourself. But while you don't have to tell your therapist everything, it's important to remember that the whole point of therapy is to give you a safe space to talk things out. "We do what we do because we want to heal and help you," Marcia Norman, PsyD, tells Refinery29. Your therapist isn't judging you, in other words.
"Remember that everything you say in your therapist’s office is confidential unless you are threatening to harm yourself or someone else," adds Samantha Boardman, MD, a psychiatrist and founder of Positive Prescription. "It's a sacred space to talk about sex and anything else that you might be embarrassed or ashamed to discuss with anyone else. After all, that’s the point."
The therapist/client relationship is incredibly unique, and there's no wrong way to go through therapy, but there are ways that you can get the most out of it.
With that in mind, we talked to a handful of counselors about the hardest stuff to talk about in therapy. Interestingly, they told us that these are often the same things that, once their clients finally open up about them, help them move forward the most.