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Page Contents: When you don’t talk in psychotherapy.                    


I have been in psychotherapy (four times a week) for over four years now. It seems to me that in the past few months my psychotherapist has become distant. He rarely talks with me now. There are some days when we will go an entire session and he may say one sentence. I realize that one of the things that I’ve done consistently in psychotherapy is not talk, I just find that I don’t have anything to say, or I’m not feeling anything. Does my therapist’s silence sound like a change in therapeutic technique? I’ve asked him why he is so quiet and he never responds or tries to explain what he is doing. I’m starting to feel frustrated and alienated (and hurt). I’ve tried to talk to him about this, but he doesn’t say anything. I’m wondering if I just need to leave therapy.

Leave therapy? You haven’t even started.

Most likely, when you were a child your parents tended to discount you emotionally—or perhaps they were outright critical or abusive. In any event, you would have developed a defensive strategy of keeping quiet, rather than risk the emotional pain of expressing yourself honestly only to be dismissed.

Now, in psychotherapy, you’re using the same defensive strategy with your psychotherapist that you use with everyone else in your life: you keep your true thoughts and feelings to yourself. And your psychotherapist is simply doing his job. After four years of your deliberately refusing to talk, he now deliberately remains silent himself in order to draw out of you your true thoughts and feelings about being dismissed. Thus, as you say, you feel frustrated and alienated and hurt—precisely how you felt as a child when you were emotionally ignored by your parents.

As a child, of course, you couldn’t let yourself feel “frustrated and alienated (and hurt)” because you didn’t have the emotional skills to cope with such feelings. But now you’re an adult, and you do have the ability to cope with your feelings in an honest and genuine manner—if you accept the challenge of real psychotherapy and learn to speak instead of keeping silent. So, instead of leaving therapy, do what you are supposed to do in psychotherapy: talk. And as you learn to talk about anything that spontaneously pops into your head, you will eventually learn how to talk honestly and openly with anyone about your real thoughts and feelings. Then you will be acting like an adult, rather than like a frightened child in an adult’s body.


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