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My Favorite 5-Word Phrase to Use as a Therapist

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I’m a therapist. And to get to be a therapist, I had to go through years of school, internships and supervision. I had to learn the symptoms, diagnoses and treatments. I also had to learn the “right” things to say. Now, I put “right” in quotations because this is a fairly subjective term. Saying the “right” thing is dependent upon the client, their presenting problem and your relationship with them. And even if you have a good grasp on all of those components … it’s still highly possible that you won’t say the “right” thing.

There is one phrase in particular that has been my go-to, especially recently. This phrase has yielded spectacular results across the board. It’s not new, it’s not complicated and I am definitely not the only therapist who says it.

No, it’s not any of the typical therapist phrases you’re thinking about. “Have you tried deep breathing?” “Maybe you should exercise more.” “Let’s talk about coping skills.” Or the very popular, “How do you feel about that?”

These are all five-word (OK, the last one is six-word) phrases. But not my five-word phrase.

What’s mine?

“Tell me more about that.”

“Tell me more about that.” Only five words, but some of the best five words you can utter as a therapist. And here’s why.

I may have the education, the degree and the credentials, but I am not the expert. I am not an expert in the client’s experience, their situation or their disorder. I am not the expert here; they are. In order for me to be the best possible therapist and ally, I need my clients to tell me more. Tell me more about what “feeling good” means to you. Tell me more about what “I’m feeling anxious” means to you. Tell me more about your thoughts, your ups and your downs. I want to understand what all of this means to you.

Everyone’s experience of mental illness is vastly different. No two people have the exact same experience, even if they have the same diagnosis. I have lived experience with mental illness myself, and I am still not the expert of anyone else’s, even if they have my diagnosis!

My clients are teaching me what their experience means to them. They are showing me how best to help them. They are letting me into their inner worlds and their reality; they are showing me their demons.

“Tell me more about that.”

I may have the education, the degree and the credentials, but I am not the expert. I am still learning. I am still learning every single time I use these five words.

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

Originally published: July 27, 2020
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