How to Talk to a Therapist: 6 Tips

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) states that more than 20% of adults in the United States have at least one mental health condition. If you think you need help, you’re not alone. 

Therapy can be a significant turning point in your life. When you put in the time and effort, the reward can exceed anything you’ve ever imagined. Research shows therapy is effective for most people. Some studies suggest that 50% of people who start therapy see positive results in just 8 sessions — and 75% see improvement after 6 months.  

That doesn’t mean the process is always easy, though. Effectively communicating is critical to the therapy experience and can significantly improve your outcome. Even if it’s not your first time in therapy, knowing how to talk to your therapist about your needs and goals, and your past and current situation is essential. 

Keep reading to get tips on how to talk more openly and effectively in your sessions — from knowing what to talk to your therapist about to learning to embrace the journey, we’re sharing it all here.

1. Prepare for Your Sessions

Before you go to your first therapy session, you can prepare by taking some time to reflect on what you hope to get out of therapy. Clear, specific goals will benefit you and your potential therapist as you navigate toward healing. Setting goals will guide the conversation and ensure you stay focused. You might even consider writing a brief agenda to keep yourself on track. 

TIP: If you’re nervous, preparing in advance for your therapy session will build your confidence. Keep the following in mind:

Therapy is a safe place

You’re going there to heal

Your licensed therapist is a trained, qualified expert

You’re brave

“Having a therapy session virtually or in a traditional setting can be nerve-wracking and anxiety-provoking. Managing these emotions can ensure individuals have a positive experience with their therapist. Keeping a journal before therapy sessions allows individuals to exert more control as they organize their thoughts, emotions, and experiences, thereby enabling them to articulate their concerns clearly during the session.”

– Talkspace therapist Famous Erwin, LMHC, LPC

2. Discuss Your Goals

Once you’ve identified your goals for therapy, it’s important to discuss them with your therapist openly. Share what you want to get out of treatment, and be specific. 

Do you want to learn how to manage your anxiety?

Are you worried you’re depressed? 

Are there any relationship issues you want to work on? 

Do you struggle with self-esteem? 

Whether you’re looking for coping skills to deal with depression or you just want to improve your communication skills, being open with your therapist helps them guide you in the most efficient, effective ways. 

TIP: If you have multiple goals, take the time to prioritize them — what’s most important to you? Start there, and then move through the list as time goes on. 

3. Be Honest and Open

Therapy is a place for you to open up. It’s a confidential and non-judgmental space where you can be honest about how you feel, what you think, and experiences you’ve had in the past. Even those things that make you uncomfortable or cause you anxiety can — and should — be discussed. This is the time and place to trust the process. 

TIP: Being open and honest means being vulnerable, which can be scary, but it’s also essential to have an authentic experience. Vulnerability fosters trust between you and your therapist. From there, you’ll be able to dive deep and get more out of the process.

4. Ask Questions

Never hesitate to compile a list of questions to ask a therapist if you’re unsure about any part of the process or you want more information. Therapy is a highly personal experience. You should feel comfortable about what is happening and the path you’re on. 

Part of knowing how to talk to a therapist means feeling empowered enough to ask for clarification and guidance. It’s always OK to ask about what to expect from therapy and the overall process.

TIP: You can always ask about your therapist’s therapeutic technique or approach. Understanding what they’re doing and why can be beneficial. It can help you get the most out of therapy while ensuring you’re as engaged as possible.  

“Therapy sessions can surely pose challenges, particularly for clients who may find themselves frozen and unable to articulate their reasons for seeking therapy once they’re in the therapist’s office. To facilitate the discovery of therapeutic goals and foster a trusting relationship between client and therapist, it’s essential to employ open-ended questions that encourage exploration and understanding of the challenges the client may be facing. Building this deeper connection allows clients to feel more comfortable and supported, ultimately enhancing the therapeutic process and promoting positive outcomes.”

– Talkspace therapist Famous Erwin, LMHC, LPC

5. Be Open to Feedback

Therapy is a two-way street. Much of what happens along the way is driven by your input and needs, but those won’t go very far if you don’t allow your therapist to offer feedback. It’s crucial to remain open to what they say — even when it’s not necessarily something you want to hear. Sometimes, the truth can be hard to accept, but it’s why you’re there. Staying open means you’re more likely to see growth.

TIP: To get the most out of the feedback, take the time to reflect on your therapist’s insights and perspective. Really think about what they’re telling you so you can apply the advice to your life.

6. Share Your Feedback

Whether you appreciate something, are concerned about something, or feel you need more support, it’s important to express how you feel with your therapist. Open communication is vital to a therapeutic relationship. It ensures your needs are met so you don’t start doubting or resenting the process.

TIP: Even though it can be a difficult conversation, remember that sharing what you’re feeling creates an opportunity to make adjustments. It ultimately means your therapy journey will be more aligned with your goals in the long run.

*Note: Feedback doesn’t always have to be negative, either. Remember to celebrate the wins when you reach a milestone or have a breakthrough. Your hard work should be acknowledged, so share when you feel like you’ve made progress.

Embracing Your Therapeutic Journey

Embracing your therapy journey means being engaged every step of the way. Stay open to the growth and change you hope to experience. Go to each session with a positive, open mindset, and remember what you’ve learned about how to talk to your therapist. Communication will go a long way and will ensure you get a return on the effort and energy you’re putting into the process. 

Therapy can be challenging. It’s work, but it’s also a valuable tool that will serve you for the rest of your life. The skills you learn along the way help strengthen your sense of self, your relationships, and face any mental health challenges you’re facing. You should be confident and optimistic about your ability to navigate your therapeutic journey. You now know how to talk to a therapist and advocate for yourself, and that’s half the battle. 

Talkspace makes therapy simple. It’s a secure, convenient online therapy platform that makes getting help easy. Don’t wait to seek out the benefits of therapy — reach out to Talkspace today to connect with a licensed therapist and embark on your well-being journey. 


Mental illness. National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed March 18, 2024.

Understanding psychotherapy and how it works. American Psychological Association. December 12, 2023. Accessed March 18, 2024.  

The post How to Talk to a Therapist: 6 Tips appeared first on Talkspace.

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