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12 Things Your Therapist Says And What It Really Means

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translating what therapists say

“What do YOU think?” That’s the number one phrase I hear in therapy over and over — usually because I’m asking my therapist for her opinion about some shit that is going down. But as those of us in therapy know, a therapist is not there to give advice or to tell you how to live your life. He or she will listen and offer observations about the way you talk about your life. But dishing out advice and tips is a big no-no. After a year-plus of asking my therapist, “What do you think?” and getting the response “What do YOU think?”, I’ve come to realize that what she really means is Stop asking me this because I’m not going to tell you.

Of course, that’s not the only thing my therapist says that actually means something else. Here are just a few things* that your therapist is saying to you and what it really means:

1. “Tell me about it.” I’m still unclear about what is bothering you and I need you to keep talking.

2. “I’m not saying he’s a bad father / she’s a bad mother …”  But he/she kind of is.

3. “It sounds like you feel really intensely about this person. Where do you think that feeling is coming from?” Bitch, chill out. You’re going to scare him off.

4. “Do you think you’re being fair?” Why don’t you realize you’re being an ass to that person?

5. “Where are YOU in all this?”  Who gives a shit about your cousin who doesn’t like the venue you chose for your wedding?

6. “It’s OK to cry.” I am happy to let you weep for the next 10 minutes until our time runs out. Less work for me.

7. “Do you think you’re doing anything to contribute to this problem?” You are causing this problem.

8. “Sorry, my last session ran a little over.” I was goofing around on the Internet before you got here and wanted to finish my Gchat conversation.

9. “Let’s revisit that a little later … “  You are rambling.

10. “Was that uncomfortable for you?” Did it make you feel aroused?

11. “Have you tried … ?” There is a really obvious alternative to this.

12. “I have no interest in telling you what to do.” Lie. I have all the interest in telling you what to do. I could do your life much better than you. But it’s not my job to tell you how to live your life…

*Actual therapists gave me input on this piece, as well as Jo Piazza, author of Love Rehab: A Novel In 12 Steps, who isn’t an actual therapist but might have been in an alternative life!

[Image of therapist and patient via Shutterstock]

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