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Something’s Holding Me Back In Therapy…

725521_70463323*Sometimes, a patient will feel apathetic about therapy. Assuming the patient is working with a good therapist, and one who is right for him, the feelings of apathy could be a cover for feelings of anger and fear.

Sometimes uncovering your problems and seeing yourself more objectively can be scary. You might unconsciously quash these uncomfortable feelings by feeling, or convincing yourself that you feel, apathetic.
If you find yourself feeling apathetic (or overtly fearful or angry or confused about therapy) this should be discussed during your sessions.

Even if you don’t tell him, your therapist should be able to discern your feelings of discomfort during the course of a session.

In addition to your actual words, or lack of them, your non-verbal language should help clue him in to the fact that something is holding you back or upsetting you.

Your therapist really has to work at being in tune with you–that’s his job.

If for some reason he hasn’t perceived that something is troubling you, you should make every effort to tell him what is going on inside. A good therapist will have an arsenal of skills to help address these issues.

For example, if your therapist finds that you have uncomfortable feelings about therapy–or about him–he might make use of important techniques such as immediacy and self-disclosure.


Immediacy (also known as You-Me Talk) is the experience of and discussion about therapy itself as well as the relationship between the therapist and the patient.

This very direct approach brings the relationship you have with your therapist into view. Saying, “I sense that something is not right between us. Is there something going on between you and me that we should talk about?”

He might also say, “Did I miss something important that I should be focusing on?” Or, “You seem upset with me. Can we talk about that?”

These are all examples of the use of immediacy by a therapist.

Additionally, your therapist might bring your non-verbal behavior into the open–into immediacy–by describing what he sees. “Since you came in you’ve been looking at the floor and you haven’t been as communicative as in the past. Also, your eyes seem a bit teary. I’m wondering if you are okay and if you would like to tell me what you’re thinking about.”

This kind of you-me talk helps the patient understand that the therapist is aware of, and cares about, him and the relationship.


Occasionally your therapist will use another technique, called self-disclosure, which is generally rarely used.

Self-disclosure is a clinical technique that involves the telling of specific, limited amounts of personal information by a therapist. He might (briefly) tell you something about his own life that could inspire you and help you expand your understanding of your own issues.

However, and this is a very big however, therapy should never be about your therapist. If he does use this technique, it should be used very sparingly and it should be tailored to spur you to self-exploration. Also, he should never reveal intimate details about his relationships or use names.

*This is excerpted from Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On (HCI)



Something’s Holding Me Back In Therapy…

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2014). Something’s Holding Me Back In Therapy…. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Aug 2014
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