Things you may not think to tell your therapist but should
You go to a counselor because you want help. You’re looking for someone who understands you and can help you be your best version of yourself. You try to be open and share all of the information you think is important for the counselor to know. However, there are a few things I ask my clients for that sometimes surprise people. Take a look at the list below and know that when you begin therapy these are some helpful things to be prepared to mention. If you’ve been seeing a therapist for awhile, take a look at the list and see if there’s something you’ve forgotten to talk about in counseling or maybe need to bring up again.
- Your strengths and things you are good at. One of the first questions I always ask a client is, “What are your strengths?” Often this is also one of the hardest questions for new clients to answer. When you walk into an office for counseling, you’re probably focused on your problems and areas where you want to improve. However, it’s very helpful for us to know what you are already good at. We can often use these strengths in treatment to help you grow. For instance, if a client is a poet I may ask them to write poems about their feelings between sessions which helps them be more vulnerable in a way they are comfortable with. If my client is excellent at making friends and keeping healthy friendships then I can encourage them to reach out to friends after a really rough session. Knowing what you already excel at will help your therapist really tailor your mental health treatment so you get the most out of counseling.
- Any problems you have with sleep. You may think to tell your doctor about those difficulty sleeping but not realize that counseling can help as well. I haven’t taken exact numbers recently but I would estimate that at least half of my clients have some sort of difficulty with sleep. If you have difficulty falling asleep, counselors can work with you on things to try before going to sleep to help your mind and body relax. If you frequently have nightmares, we can talk about how to calm your nervous system when you wake up from a nightmare and also work through a nightmare protocol together to reduce your nightmares overall.
- Medications you take and any changes in medication. Your doctor (either a psychiatrist or family doctor) will manage your medicine, but it’s helpful for your counselor to know what kinds of medications you generally take. I’m especially talking about medications for sleep, anxiety, mood stabilizers, antidepressants or other psychiatric/mental health concerns. Most therapists will ask what medication you take at beginning of your work together. However, it’s common to forget to mention to your therapist when your psychiatrist or family doctor has made a change to your medications.
- Major physical health concerns. Physical health and mental health are very linked. For instance, there’s a strong correlation between depression and chronic pain. Knowing your physical health concerns and how those are impacting you at any given moment gives us a more complete picture of your day to day life and things that may impact your thoughts and feelings.
- The most stressful periods of your life…even if they happened a long time ago. Past trauma can impact a person for years. If nothing else, it might make certain subjects a little more sensitive. If your house burned down when you were a child, it’s worth mentioning to your therapist. If you were raped ten years ago and feel like you coped with it really well, it’s still something to share with your therapist. If you got married young and divorced after less than a year, even that brief union may be worth talking about in counseling. This doesn’t mean that every stressful event you’ve ever been through needs to be discussed at length in therapy, but it helps us have a more complete picture of your life and your mental health needs if we know what obstacles you’ve faced before and how you coped in the past.
- Anyone you want us to talk to. You may not think to give your therapist permission to talk to your psychiatrist, spouse or your child’s school. However, if you want us to talk to that individual it’s important to let us know. I always error on the side of sharing too little information. I am happy to talk to your child’s teacher or school counselor. I am thrilled when a psychiatrist or other physician wants an update. Just know that I won’t even confirm someone is my client until I’ve heard from the responsible party (either the client or guardian) that it’s ok. Even then, I will only share whatever information you’ve said I can share. I can’t stress enough how important it is to think ahead to who you may want your counselor to talk to and sign a release before giving that person the go ahead to call your counseling center.
Counseling in the Columbia, MO Area
Aspire Counseling LLC is a counseling clinic in Columbia, MO. We are located in the Village of Cherry Hill. While our therapists see clients with a variety of issues, we specialize in helping clients of all ages (as young as preschool through retirement) who are looking to heal from trauma, grief, anxiety or just feeling overwhelmed by stress. Our therapists will both use treatments that we know from research have helped people with similar concerns and also get to know your unique needs. If you’re looking for a safe space where you can express yourself and begin creating a life worth living, contact Aspire Counseling today.
Jessica Tappana, LCSW is the founder, director and a therapist at Aspire Counseling in Columbia, MO. She began Aspire Counseling in May 2017 to provide quality, evidence based mental health services to individuals in the Mid Missouri area looking for healing from trauma, grief, anxiety and overwhelming stress. The practice now has 4 therapists and serves all ages from early childhood through retirement. Aspire Counseling is LGBTQ friendly and welcoming to people from all walks of life. Jessica is proud of the care that is taken at Aspire to match each client with a therapist who is uniquely suited to meet that client’s needs based on personality, training, specialty and experience. If you’re interested in beginning your healing journey, you will find a safe space at Aspire Counseling.