There is a power differential inherent in therapy.
The therapist is seen as the ” expert” and the client is not.
First, let me just say bullshit to that. You may work with me because I have skills and and expertise that you do not; however, I am not the expert on you. You are. And it is ( part of) my job to help you (re)discover that. I see therapy as a partnership between me and my clients, not a dictatorship where I tell them what to do because having some letters after my name means I know better.
Not all clients see it like that and I completely understand. They believe that they are supposed to defer to me in some way, or take my words as undisputed Gospel. Most people come into therapy with some tendencies toward people pleasing and being overly complaint anyway, so this assigning of hierarchies often magnifies that.
So on that note, I am giving you a list of things it is perfectly acceptable ( and in my practice absolutely encouraged) to say to your therapist.
I don’t agree with you.
That was not my experience/ feelings.
I feel angry/let down/misunderstood/unseen/fill in the blank by you.
I don’t want to talk about that now/I’m uncomfortable talking about that/can we talk about something else?
That ( fill in the blank) did not get addressed to my liking/feels incomplete to me. Can we go back and talk about it again?
I don’t feel like the direction we are going is helpful. Could we switch gears?
No. ( full stop. End of sentence. Nothing additional needed).
I’m not getting what I need from you and I’d like to explore other options.
I don’t understand/what you just said does not make sense to me. Will you explain it again?
Therapy is really hard and I did not feel like coming to our session today.
I’d like to take a break from the from the deep work and have a pause/reset/lighter conversation today.
I thought I was ready for therapy but I am not. I’d like to call you back when I feel more able to commit to this process.
I’m sure that there are countless other examples along these lines, but you get my drift. It’s ok to have a different opinion, thought, belief, need, desire than mine. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned in my own therapy is that I can disagree with my therapist and it’s not the end of the world. She’s not going to get mad and storm out of the room or punish me for seeing things my own unique way. And neither am I with my own clients.
This is often surprising yet refreshing to clients who grew up in homes where this healthy separation and individuation was not allowed. Much of the trouble people have with accessing their own voice is the fear of what will happen once they do. My office is a fantastic place to experiment, to practice sharing your truth without worry of repercussion. In fact, I am delighted when clients disagree with me or correct me when I say something that does not feel quite right to them. From where I sit, it means they are starting to trust their own lived experience in the moment over my interpretation of it. And that’s gold. Pure gold.
If you’d like to explore what working with me is like and how I can support you, reach out in whatever way feels good to you. I’m happy to connect!