What happens in therapy when you don’t know what to talk about?
This is a very common question amongst therapy clients, and one that typically provokes some anxiety. It is hard to imagine what a therapy session might look like when there is seemingly nothing to talk about. During the first several sessions with a new therapist, clients have lots of topics they want to cover. They have the life events, stressors and/or symptoms that brought them in in the first place, as well as years of history and context that they want their therapist to understand in order to help with said situation(s). But what happens once the therapist is caught up on who’s who and what’s what? Or what happens when there is nothing pressing from the week prior to talk about and unpack during a session? And, often the most anxiety-inducing question of all, what happens if there is silence in the therapy room?!
The reality is, some of the deepest and most important therapy work happens when there is seemingly “nothing to talk about.” While it is valuable to have a safe space to unpack and process the more surface level topics, the richest work happens when clients have the opportunity to dive deeper into themselves and begin touch previously untouched memories, core beliefs and their automatic reactions.
The ever-so feared silence in a therapy room is actually a critical part of the therapy process. Silence allows clients the space to truly process their thoughts and feelings without distraction or interruption. This can be an uncomfortable experience at times, but it is one that promotes real growth, as an individual is able to really sit in a thought, which is not usually possible in back and forth conversations with friends, colleagues or family.
Having nothing to talk about can also be a form of resistance. Sometimes, after weeks on end spent on distressing topics, one needs a break. They have “nothing to talk about” because they simple feel they can’t go there anymore. Or, perhaps a breakthrough has happened and they no longer feel the need to stay on this topic, but don’t know where else they want to go. Sometimes, a client has had a good week, and they fear that talking about something distressing in therapy is going to make them feel bad when they are currently feeling okay. It is a misconception that only problems ought to be discussed in therapy. There is actually great value in talking about what is working or going well, in order to reinforce the things that are bringing joy or satisfaction to one’s life.
Lastly, it is important not to feel the need to have something to talk about for your therapist. Your time in therapy is your time. You can use it however will best serve you and your therapist will be glad to meet you where you are, gently pushing and challenging you to grow along the way.