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What We Talk About (When There's Nothing to Talk About)

Coming into a therapy session without an idea of what you want to talk about is pretty normal. Instead of viewing it as a roadblock, consider it an opportunity for a different kind of exploration. Whether you're feeling stuck, feel like there is simply “nothing to talk about,” or are unsure of where to begin, know that there are ways to navigate through these moments and engage meaningfully with your therapist.


Here are just a few recommendations on how to be with this moment.


Sit with the “nothing” for a period of time. Maybe you could say, “You know, I don’t know what to focus on today. I’m going to be silent for a few moments and see what thoughts, feelings or sensations in my body appear.” And do this. Actually be silent, go inside yourself and non-judgmentally observe what comes up. By embracing the quiet, you create space for new thoughts and emotions to emerge. Does anything surprise you? Do you find yourself judging anything? Was it easier than usual to let go of thoughts, feelings, sensations? These are all observations that can be shared and explored with your therapist.


Reflect on your week. Do either of us want you to feel like therapy is just “reporting” how your week went? No, not really. And yet when we are feeling stuck or sitting with a sense of “hm, what to discuss?” a good place to start typically can be to review what you have been up to recently. Sometimes our most meaningful conversations come from these seemingly “mundane” weekly experiences. Sharing about your week also gives your therapist a valuable glimpse into your everyday life — and allows them to point out or notice patterns, successes, challenges that otherwise might be lost on you.


Discuss how you feel about this space itself. How have things been? What do you think of therapy? What’s been working for you and what has not been? What insights have you formed? Do you have any new goals? What is different from when you first started therapy? What would you say to that person now? If you were your own therapist, what would you think it would be important to talk about today?


What does “nothing” mean, anyway? What is it that you think you should be talking about in therapy? What do you talk about with your friends? Family? Coworkers? Are only sad or anxious times talked about in therapy? Are good moments from the week useful to talk about? What about your cat? Can’t we talk about her? (We all want to talk about her.)


For the sake of brevity, here are some other quick recommendations on how to be with this time:


  • Share a memory that reminds you of a part of this past week.

  • If available, do some free-writing or drawing/scribbling and see what comes up.

  • Consider asking yourself: Am I avoiding anything? Is there something I am scared/ashamed of to tell my therapist?

  • Tell your therapist more about yourself! This is such a valuable opportunity for us to get to know you. Tell us about a project at work, about a video game you love, about an important relationship in your life.

  • Share a joy report. What has brought you the most joy in recent weeks? You can replace “joy” with any sensation. Pleasure, spontaneity, adrenaline, calm, peace, solitude…


Lastly, I recommend you consider two other aspects of this if and when it comes up.


First, do you notice that this happens outside of sessions, too? With people who aren’t your therapist? Is it hard talking to people generally? Has it always been this way, or is this something new you’re noticing? Your therapist would really appreciate knowing this information.


Second, do you notice that you feel like you have “nothing to talk about” at therapy often? Bring this up directly with your therapist. This could be a sign that you should spend more time in between sessions noting/thinking about what you’d like to explore in therapy. It could also be an indication that the frequency of sessions, or the goals being focused on, need to be adjusted. In any case, we therapists want to know about it so we can help you feel supported during therapy, which is your time.


Having nothing to talk about is not something to “fix.” It’s okay and something to be curious about. Wishing you all a lot of curiosity!




 

Sam Barklow, LCSW, MSW, is a psychotherapist with a Master of Social Work (MSW) who provides individual and couples counseling. She is a warm and empathetic counselor who believes that all of her clients have the knowledge and abilities to feel more at peace and balanced in their daily lives. She views counseling as an opportunity for both her and clients to explore different perspectives, talk through emotions and practice new skills.


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