4 Types of ‘Good’ Therapy Sessions You Might Recognize
I’ve been in therapy for years, and the whole time I’ve been telling everyone I know to go too because I truly believe it can make a huge difference in your life. But that doesn’t mean I’ve always had great experiences in therapy. Over the years, I’ve had plenty of therapists who just didn’t “click” with me, and two years ago I had to break up with a therapist who took advantage of my vulnerability and responded with cruelty.
I’ve had some seriously terrible therapists, but I’ve also had some good therapists, like my current one. I mean, I’ve had a really good therapy session the last three or four times, which is incredible, and it’s made me think about what makes a therapy session “good.”
Over the years, I’ve had all kinds of good therapy sessions, so I thought I would share some of the classic types of good therapy sessions so that, if you’re starting therapy and unsure of what to expect, you can be on the lookout for one of these.
1. The Crying Session
Ah, the crying session, how I love you. I am a big crier, especially in therapy, but even if you aren’t, I think a good crying session is an important step in therapy.
If you don’t love crying, a crying session might sound like a horrible, mortifying experience, but here’s why it’s really a good therapy session: release.
I am just now realizing how much movement plays a role in emotional processing. In order to process our emotions, we need to move through them, and allow them to move through us. And when we hold back tears or numb ourselves to keep from crying, we stagnate that movement.
A crying session allows those feelings to move, to breathe, to exist. I know that can be scary, and there’s no need to force a crying session before you’re ready. But if you’re in therapy holding back tears, I hope you’ll repeat this to yourself:
“I am safe. These emotions are allowed to exist. I am allowed to exist, exactly as I am.”
2. The Screaming Session
Thankfully, I don’t need to have too many screaming sessions anymore, but when I first started therapy and I felt so conflicted and angry and scared, I had a lot of screaming sessions. Basically, I just yelled at my therapist about how much I hated my brain and myself and my life and how unfair existence was.
Was it angsty? Oh, of course.
Was it necessary? Definitely.
The beauty of the screaming session, at least for me, is inhibition. I typically live such a painfully inhibited life, and any time I find myself not editing my existence is a moment worth celebrating. I’m sure screaming sessions weren’t my therapist’s favorite, but she knew they helped me, so we worked with it.
If you don’t have issues with inhibition, then maybe this session isn’t as special as it is for me, but even so, if you’re in therapy screaming, then there’s something in your life you need to scream about, and therapy is a safe space to do it.
3. The Truth-Telling Session
These are the hardest good sessions by far. Truth-telling. A coming-to-God moment where the clouds part and you suddenly see that there is no way forward but through, and you tell your therapist that thing. It doesn’t have to be one big thing, one big traumatic event. More often than not, it’s just a deeply held truth that you just sort of subconsciously accept without ever voicing it.
For me, that deep, scary truth is that some part of me truly believes I am unlovable, that my existence is inherently bad. I spent so long avoiding speaking this truth because I knew I shouldn’t believe it. But that didn’t stop it from keeping a chokehold on my life.
Finally, years after starting therapy, I had a truth-telling session. With my therapist’s guidance and help, I was able to finally articulate this core belief and voice it.
It sucked. No one wants to talk about how unlovable they think they are. It feels hideous. But without acknowledging that core belief, I’ll never be able to change it. Since that truth-telling session, I’ve made so much progress with myself.
The truth-telling session is all about accepting change. When you’re ready to change that core belief, you’ll have your truth-telling session. Until then, remind yourself:
“My core beliefs can change. I am not broken the way I am. All things in time.”
4. The Bragging Session
I actually just had one of these yesterday, and let me tell you, these are the sessions that actually feel the best in the moment. Basically, a bragging session is one where you and your therapist talk about your latest breakthrough and how amazing it is.
I recently started a new medication, and it’s given me the energy I’ve been lacking for months (maybe years? lol) and it’s helped tremendously with my chronic suicidal ideation. With all that brainpower and energy, I was able to set some important boundaries with my family regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, something that would have sent me into a complete spiral even three months ago.
So in therapy, we talked and we celebrated. That’s the thing about therapy: it’s hard work, but there’s a massive payoff. When you get a win, you have a personal cheerleader who is genuinely, heartwarmingly proud of you, and you get to spend 45 minutes just talking about how amazing you are.
Bragging sessions are important. They remind us that this hard work isn’t just about the slow grind of self-improvement. It’s about getting a few more wins here and there and recognizing how those small wins are contributing to a healthier, happier pattern that makes up your life.
So if you get a win, bring it up in therapy! Brag! I know it might feel awkward, but I promise, your therapist won’t think you’re conceited. They’ll think you are self-aware and hard-working and they will be proud. And so will I.
So there you have it, four different types of good therapy sessions I’ve experienced over the years. If you’re in therapy, I really hope you’ve experienced some of these sessions too, because they really are amazing.
A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted.
Getty Images photo via Prostock-Studio