What to Talk About in Therapy: Effective Topics for Healing

Written by:

Updated on:

Fact Checked


Note: we may receive compensation if you become a paying customer of a therapy service we link to.

Looking for a therapist?

Deciding what to talk about in therapy can be a daunting task, especially for individuals who are new to the therapeutic process.

It’s natural to feel unsure about which topics to bring up and what to share with a mental health professional.

However, therapy is meant to be a safe space where individuals can explore their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, ultimately gaining insights and strategies for improved mental well-being.

At the core of therapy lies communication, as it is through open and honest discussion that individuals can make meaningful progress in understanding their own emotions and behaviors.

The content of each therapy session varies depending on the individual’s unique needs and goals.

Regardless of the specific topics discussed, it’s essential that individuals feel comfortable and trust their therapist enough to share openly.

Understanding Therapy

What to say to therapist

Therapy, also known as psychotherapy, is a crucial component of mental health treatment.

It involves various approaches and techniques used by psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals to help clients address their emotional, psychological, and behavioral issues.

The following table aims to understand different forms of therapy.

Talk TherapyFocuses on creating a safe, non-judgmental environment for clients to discuss their thoughts and feelings openly.

This method is utilized in various therapeutic models, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), client-centered therapy, Gestalt therapy, and existential therapy.
Integrative TherapyCombines different therapeutic modalities to create a personalized approach for each client.

A mental health professional might use elements of CBT, Gestalt therapy, and existential therapy, depending on the client’s unique needs.
Behavioral TherapyAims to modify unhealthy behaviors by reinforcing positive actions and minimizing negative ones.

This approach can be particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with addiction or compulsive behaviors.

The therapeutic relationship between the client and the mental health professional is essential for effective treatment.

Establishing trust and rapport ensures that clients feel comfortable sharing their emotions, thoughts, and experiences.

Open communication between both parties is vital for identifying goals, tracking progress, and making necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

Telehealth or Online Therapy

Telehealth or online therapy has become increasingly popular in delivering therapy, allowing clients to access mental health services from the comfort of their homes.

This approach can be particularly beneficial for those who have limited access to healthcare professionals or face transportation challenges.

While telehealth may not be suitable for all individuals or therapeutic approaches, it has proven to be a valuable resource for many seeking mental health treatment.

Preparing for Your First Session

Things to discuss in therapy

During the first therapy session, it is essential for both the client and therapist to establish a clear understanding of the therapeutic process.

The initial meeting, often referred to as an interview, allows the therapist to gather information about the client’s concerns, background, and goals for therapy.

Whether it is an in-person session or via telehealth, it is crucial that the individual feels comfortable and supported.

Therapists, which include counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists, use their training and skills to create a welcoming environment for the client.

The first session often involves discussing the reasons for seeking therapy and exploring expectations from the treatment.

The therapist will ask the client about their history, experiences, and any potential referral sources.

Some crucial aspects to cover in the first session include:

  • Building rapport: The therapist will establish a connection with the client, creating a foundation for trust and effective communication.
  • Assessing needs: The therapist will assess the client’s concerns to better understand how they can benefit from therapy.
  • Establishing goals: The client and therapist will collaborate to determine achievable goals for the therapy process.
  • Discussing boundaries: Both parties will discuss and agree on confidentiality and the extent of the therapeutic relationship.
  • Planning treatment: The therapist will use their training and skills to develop a tailored treatment plan that addresses the client’s unique needs and preferences.

It is essential for the client to approach the first therapy session with an open minda willingness to share their thoughts and feelings, and a readiness to engage in the therapeutic process.

By knowing what to expect, clients can feel more at ease during the initial interview and get the most out of their therapy sessions.

Exploring the Areas for Discussion

Things to work on in therapy

Therapy is a journey of self-discovery, personal growth, and healing. One of the key elements of effective therapy is the open and honest discussion between the client and therapist.

These discussions often center around a wide range of areas, each uniquely important to the individual seeking therapeutic support.

Personal Experiences

Discussing personal experiences in a therapy session can help the client gain insight and understanding of their past events.

This may include exploring past traumas, childhood memories, or past experiences that shaped their beliefs and personality.

By delving into these topics, the therapist can identify patterns of behavior and help the client work on addressing and resolving any negative aspects of their past.

Psychological State

Therapy often involves discussing the client’s current psychological state, including their emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

It may entail assessing mood changes, life changes, and overall mental well-being.

These discussions offer the client an opportunity to express themselves openly and gain feedback and guidance from the therapist, who can help them understand their emotional patterns and develop coping strategies for dealing with daily stressors.

Your Relationships

Other important areas for discussion in therapy are the client’s relationships with their friends, family, and partner. This may involve examining conflicts, communication issues, or even life changes like divorce.

By exploring these topics, the therapist can help the client develop healthier communication patterns and nurture their existing relationships.

Addressing relationship issues can also help uncover underlying emotional problems and contribute to improving the client’s overall mental health.

Work Life

Things to work on in therapy

Therapy sessions may also address work-related matters, such as work stress, conflicts with colleagues, or career aspirations.

Exploring these topics can help the client understand the impact of their work environment on their mental health and develop strategies to strike a balance between their personal and professional lives.

By discussing and evaluating work experiences and goals, the therapist can support the client in reaching their full potential professionally and emotionally.

The Role of Emotions in Therapy

Emotions play a crucial role in therapy, as they are often the driving force behind the issues that people seek help for.

Addressing emotions such as stress, grief, loss, shame, guilt, and other types of emotional distress can lead to significant improvements in one’s mental health and overall well-being.

Emotional Distress

In therapy, clients are encouraged to explore and discuss their emotions openly.

This process allows them to better understand the underlying causes of their emotional distress, potentially leading to more effective treatment strategies.

For example, discussing feelings of grief and loss can help individuals process their emotions and develop coping mechanisms to deal with the pain of losing a loved one.


Similarly, talking about stress and its sources can equip clients with the tools for managing it, ultimately reducing its impact on their lives.

A therapist may guide their client in pinpointing specific stressors and work together to devise strategies to minimize or eliminate them.

Shame and Guilt

How to talk to a therapist

Addressing emotions like shame and guilt is also essential in therapy. These emotions can hold clients back from living a fulfilling life, as they may feel undeserving of happiness or success.

By uncovering and exploring these emotions, individuals may begin to recognize the patterns that allow shame and guilt to dictate their choices and gain insight into how they can break free from these destructive patterns.

It is important to note that while discussing emotions in therapy can be challenging, it is a necessary aspect of the healing process.

Creating a safe and supportive environment is vital for clients to feel comfortable enough to share their deepest fears, vulnerabilities, and emotional experiences.

By acknowledging and addressing emotions in therapy, clients can work towards developing healthier emotional regulation and improved mental health.

Setting and Achieving Goals in Therapy

In therapy, setting and achieving goals play a crucial role in ensuring successful outcomes for the client.

Establishing clear, well-defined goals helps therapists and clients alike understand the primary focus and desired outcomes of the treatment plan.

When clients actively participate in defining their goals, they often feel more invested in the therapeutic process and motivated to attain them.

SMARTER Goal-setting Model

One critical aspect to consider in the goal-setting process is to create achievable and realistic targets.

The SMARTER goal-setting model recommends that goals be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound
  • Evaluated
  • Re-adjusted

This model ensures that goals are attainable within a specified timeframe and can be easily monitored and adjusted as needed.

Personal Values and Interests

Talking to therapist

Incorporating the client’s personal values and interests into their goals is essential for promoting engagement and motivation.

For example, if a client is passionate about art, therapy may include objectives relating to creative expression.

This approach increases the likelihood of the client being committed to achieving their goals and experiencing a sense of accomplishment.

Communication and Collaboration

Throughout the course of therapy, ongoing communication and collaboration between therapist and client are crucial for tracking progress, evaluating goal attainment, and adjusting goals as needed.

This process ensures that the treatment plan remains relevant and aligned with the client’s changing needs, fostering a strong sense of purpose and direction in the therapeutic relationship.

The Therapist-Client Relationship

The therapist-client relationship is a vital component of successful therapy. Trust between the therapist and client forms the foundation of this relationship.

Establishing trust is essential as it allows clients to feel comfortable sharing their emotions, thoughts, and experiences during therapy sessions.


Confidentiality plays a crucial role in building trust. The therapist must ensure that the information the client shares is kept private and secure.

This helps to create a safe and supportive environment where clients can openly discuss their issues without any fear of judgment or disclosure to others.

Therapeutic Alliance

What to talk about in therapy

The therapeutic alliance refers to the collaboration between the therapist and the client. A strong therapeutic alliance serves as the backbone of treatment, enhancing the effectiveness of therapy.

This connection, built over time, cultivates a shared understanding of the client’s needs and goals.

Good communication between both parties is necessary for fostering the alliance, as it helps in understanding one another’s perspectives.

Therapist’s Role

The therapist’s role includes providing empathyunderstanding, and support to their clients.

By actively listening, asking relevant questions, and offering guidance, therapists work with clients to navigate through their struggles and develop coping strategies.

Clients, on the other hand, must be willing to engageshare their feelings, and actively participate in the therapy process.

Limits and Boundaries

Therapists and clients need to be aware of their limits and boundaries. This helps to maintain a professional relationship, ensuring that the focus stays on the therapeutic process.

Moreover, recognizing and addressing any potential challenges or conflicts in their relationship can contribute to a stronger and more effective therapeutic alliance.

Journaling as a Therapeutic Practice

Journaling is a powerful tool that can be used in therapy to help clients process their thoughts and emotions.

This practice enables individuals to express and explore their feelings, as well as identify patterns in their thoughts and behaviors.

Journaling can be especially helpful for clients who may find it difficult to articulate their thoughts verbally during therapy sessions.


Journaling as a Therapeutic Practice

One of the primary benefits of journaling in therapy is the ability for clients to have a safe and private space for self-expression.

Through writing, they can freely explore their inner thoughts and feelings without the fear of judgment.

This process can lead to greater self-awareness, helping individuals to better understand their emotions and identify the root causes of their issues.

Enhancing Communication

Journaling can also be an effective tool for enhancing communication between the therapist and the client.

By sharing their written thoughts, clients can provide insight and context into their emotions and experiences, making it easier for therapists to tailor their approach to each individual’s needs.

Additionally, journaling can reinforce the therapeutic relationship, as clients may feel more connected to their therapist when they share their written reflections.


Incorporating journaling into therapy sessions doesn’t have to be complicated.

Therapists can encourage clients to maintain a regular journal, write about specific prompts, or record their thoughts and feelings following each session.

The flexibility of journaling allows it to be easily adapted to each person’s unique circumstances and therapeutic goals.

Final Thoughts

What to talk about in therapy

In therapy, it is essential to maintain open and honest communication. Discussing feelings, thoughts, and experiences can enable individuals to gain insight into their emotions and learn coping strategies.

Some key topics to consider exploring in therapy include:

  • Relationships: Examine interpersonal dynamics, attachment styles, and communication patterns within romantic, familial, and platonic relationships.
  • Emotions: Address current emotional states, triggers, and the impact emotions have on daily life.
  • Past experiences: Delve into pivotal events from the past that may influence present behavior and emotions, such as childhood experiences or past traumas.
  • Current challenges: Discuss ongoing struggles, stressors, and obstacles that the individual may be facing.
  • Goals and future plans: Explore personal aspirations, career objectives, and areas for growth or improvement.

Using a variety of techniques and strategies, such as journaling, talk therapy, or cognitive-behavioral techniques, can facilitate discussions on these topics.

Remember that therapy is a personalized process, and the content of sessions should be tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual.

When seeking a qualified therapist, online directories can be a valuable resource to simplify the search process.

Platforms like Find-a-Therapist, TherapyDen, and GoodTherapy offer comprehensive directories that allow you to search for therapists based on your location and specific needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I ask my therapist?

When starting therapy, it’s normal to have questions about the process. It’s important to ask your therapist about their approachconfidentiality, or any other concerns you might have.

Inquire about their experience and qualifications to ensure they are the right fit for your needs. Be open to discussing your goals and expectations to create a suitable plan for your therapy journey together.

Remember, asking questions helps build trust and rapport between you and your therapist.

What should I share in my first session?

During your first therapy session, you should share information about yourself, your background, and your reasons for attending therapy.

Be honest about your feelings, thoughts, and challenges, allowing your therapist to better understand your needs.

You may discuss any relevant personal or medical history, past traumas, current life situations, or future aspirations.

Don’t worry about revealing everything in the first session, as therapy is a process where you will gradually unfold and address various aspects of your life.

How can I talk about difficult topics?

Discussing difficult topics in therapy may feel overwhelming or uncomfortable, but it’s essential for personal growth and healing. Be patient with yourself and trust your therapist to support you through these conversations.

You can start by mentioning that you want to discuss a sensitive issue and express any concerns or fears you may have.

It might be helpful to write down your thoughts or practice talking about the topic with a trusted friend before the session.

Your therapist can help you navigate through these discussions by asking gentle, open-ended questions and creating a safe, non-judgmental space for you to explore your emotions.

What can I discuss when I’m out of ideas?

There might be times in therapy when you feel unsure about what to discuss or feel like you’ve run out of ideas.

In these situations, try focusing on the present moment – any recent experiences or emotions that have arisen or new challenges you’re facing.

It’s also helpful to revisit your therapy goals and assess the progress you’ve made, as well as explore any lingering concerns or unaddressed issues.

Your therapist can guide you through this process by using therapeutic questioning techniques that encourage reflection and self-exploration.

Additional Resources

Prioritizing our mental well-being is paramount in today’s fast-paced world. The digital age has redefined therapy and psychiatric care, making support more accessible than ever. To guide you towards a healthier state of mind, we’ve partnered with pioneering names in mental health.
Note: We collaborate with top-tier mental health companies and receive compensation for marketing efforts on behalf of BetterHelp and ReGain.

Online Therapy

Discover a path to emotional well-being with BetterHelp – your partner in convenient and affordable online therapy. With a vast network of 30,000+ licensed therapists, they’re committed to helping you find the one to support your needs. Take advantage of their Free Online Assessment, and connect with a therapist who truly understands you. Begin your journey today.

Relationship Counceling

Whether you’re facing communication challenges, trust issues, or simply seeking to strengthen your connection, ReGain’s experienced therapists are here to guide you and your partner toward a healthier, happier connection from the comfort of your own space. Get started.

Therapist Directory

Discover the perfect therapist who aligns with your goals and preferences, allowing you to take charge of your mental health. Whether you’re searching for a specialist based on your unique needs, experience level, insurance coverage, budget, or location, our user-friendly platform has you covered. Search here.

About the author

Eliana Galindo
Eliana is a dedicated psychologist from Colombia who has gained extensive experience and made significant contributions in child development, clinical psychology, and rehabilitation psychology. Her work as a rehabilitation psychologist with disabled children has been transformative and compassionate. In the child development field, she creates nurturing environments through assessments, interventions, and collaboration with families. In clinical psychology, she supports individuals overcoming mental health challenges with empathy and evidence-based approaches. Inspired by her experiences, Eliana is motivated to write about mental health, aiming to raise awareness and advocate for a compassionate and inclusive approach to well-being.

You might also be interested in


In some articles, we include products we think are useful for our readers. When you buy through these links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

Information on our website is for educational and informational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a mental healthcare professional.