Top Concerns Clients Bring to a Marriage & Family Therapist
I get it. Trying to find a therapist is hard! Not only are there so many out there, the letters in their titles do not necessarily explain what they do. I’m here to answer some of the most commonly asked questions that I get.
What kind of therapist are you? Because there are many types of therapists out there, I tell people I’m in mental health. My title is: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. We are trained to discuss relationships.
What if I’m not in a relationship? Do I have to be married or in a family to see you? Nope! Anyone can come to see me in therapy. I personally see clients from teens up in Individual, Family and Couples therapy modalities. As LMFTs we are trained to discuss relationships. It can even be the relationship you have with yourself.
What do people talk about in therapy? It all depends! You come in and discuss whatever is on your mind. Typically people come in because a part of their life is out of control and impairing at least one aspect.
My marriage is in trouble. You’ll help us save it, right? Not necessarily. Together hopefully we can do some good work. Sometimes, however, it is decided that the best route for a couple is to split up. If that is the case I can help facilitate an amicable ending.
My friend spoke so highly of her therapist and said he helped her tremendously. I had a different experience with him. How is that possible? I tell people therapists are not “one size fits all.” Finding the therapist for you is a very individual experience. You may have to try out a few, and try them out a few times, before you decide on one.
Will I be in therapy forever? While therapy can be beneficial for our health, it is not necessarily the same as working out every day. A goal in therapy is to process through some difficult content, gain coping skills, and go out into the world better equipped. Over time and with lots of practice, you may be feeling better. At that point, it is good to acknowledge the hard work you have put in, and challenge yourself to go out on your own. It is empowering to end therapy and know you can always return should something change or a new matter present itself.
What if I want to go to couples therapy but my partner doesn’t? Often people think they can come in for couples therapy so that the therapist can hear their side and tell their partner to change. Conversely, people fear coming in to therapy because they don’t want to get ganged up on! Couples therapy is not about siding with one person. It’s about teaching the couple how to communicate and fight well, how to hear and validate, and accept the partner you are with.
What if I’m ashamed to come to therapy because my family sees mental illness as a weakness? I hear you! I hear it all the time, not just from clients but unfortunately society thinks that – or at least used to. Times are changing and more and more people are seeing therapy as a good thing. A strength in fact. Being able to work on yourself is very brave and positive. Instead of ashamed, be proud!
What if I cry? That’s ok!
What if I don’t cry? That’s ok!
I have a lot of stuff to unpack. What if it’s too much for you? Thank you for being concerned about me. Please know that I am OK, and not only is listening but holding (especially the heavy stuff) is all part of my job.
What if I need to talk about things that are embarrassing? The cool thing about therapy is that it is an emotionally safe space. Clients have commented on how relieving and freeing it is to share private, difficult, or secretive things and realize there was no judgment. Also, there’s never TMI, and most likely you’re not the first to bring it in to a session, anyway.
How come you didn’t say hello to me when I saw you outside of therapy? Because of confidentiality I do not initiate conversation. However, if you do, I’m happy to engage briefly. Therapeutic boundaries exist for a reason, and they need to be maintained outside of therapy if we happen to see each other.
I’m coming to therapy because I’m stuck and need you to tell me what to do. One thing I let people know off the bat is that I do not tell anyone what to do. We can discuss options, the pros and cons but in the end you are in control of your decisions. How empowering!
What if I bring up something that you do not know anything about? Empathy is something therapists are skilled in. However, therapists cannot be expected to have been through every situation their clients have. Personally, I am transparent about things I do not know and will ask clients to educate me or explain so that I understand their experience. If clients have an issue that I do not feel comfortable with given my skill set, or I feel a client would benefit from a different therapist then we discuss options and I provide referrals if necessary.