NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Talking to Your Spouse About Your Therapy Sessions

Psychotherapy clients often ask me for my opinion as to whether it's advisable for them to talk to their spouse or significant other about their therapy sessions.

Exploring the Meaning of Sharing the Contents of Your Therapy Sessions With Your Spouse
While I certainly don't have a "rule" about clients speaking to their spouse about their psychotherapy sessions, when a client asks me about it, I like to explore the meaning it has for him or her and how s/he thinks it might affect his or her participation in therapy.

Talking to Your Spouse About Your Therapy Sessions

After we discuss it, many of them come to the conclusion that, while it might be interesting, at times, to talk to their spouse about what they discussed in therapy, there might be times when they don't want to share everything.  

For most people, it's not a matter of keeping secrets from their spouse.  It's more a matter of having a place where they can come, where the time is dedicated exclusively to them, and where they can explore anything they want to talk about in a non-judgmental, empathic environment.  Most people don't have this experience in other areas of their lives.  

Therapy as a Special Time and Place For the Client
Therapy is a special time and place for the client.   Often, people like to reflect quietly on their therapy sessions afterwards.  Some people keep a journal of their thoughts and dreams related to their therapy.

Aside from the fact that it's often difficult to convey to someone who wasn't there the personal experiences that they have in therapy, clients often want to take the time and space for themselves to fully experience the sessions.  

The Unconscious Processing of the Therapy Session Continues After the Session
Most clients, who have experience with therapy, know that the unconscious mind continues to process the session even after the session is over.  Since the experience is unconscious, they might not have a direct experience of it immediately.  But, often, this unconscious processing shows up in dreams, day dreams or a sudden, new awareness about themselves or their lives.

Since this unconscious processing continues after the session, this process can be foreshortened by the feedback that a client gets from a well-meaning spouse.  When people who were not in the psychotherapy session hear about the session, it can seem totally different to them as compared to clients' personal experiences.  A lot goes on unconsciously between the therapist and the client that is unspoken, but is just as real an experience as any client-therapist verbal exchange.  

Trying to Explain Feelings That Are Often Ephemeral: Words Can Elude You
When a client attempts to explain the experience in therapy to a wife or husband, the client might be cutting short the unconscious processing by trying to concretize it too soon.  Also, if the spouse's reaction is something like, "I don't get it.  What's so special about that?" and the client tries to explain or justify his experience, it often takes away from the experience.

This is not to say that most spouses aren't supportive of their loved ones being in therapy.  It's not about that.  It's about allowing the unconscious process to continue to go where it needs to go without external input. 

If you think about what it's like to really convey a dream sometimes, you can get a sense of what it can be like, at times, to try to convey the experience of some therapy sessions.  When you tell your dream, often, words aren't sufficient to convey your internal experience of the dream.  Trying to explain your experience in therapy can be similar.  It can be frustrating.  

After a While, You Could Feel Like Your Spouse is in the Therapy Room With You
The other reason you might not want to talk to your spouse about your therapy sessions is that, once you get into the habit of doing it, you can begin to feel like your spouse is in the room with you in every session.

At times, that could be a very emotionally supportive feeling.  But, other times, knowing while you're in session that you're going to talk about your therapy to your spouse afterwards, could inhibit you from expressing yourself freely in the session.  Some clients, who talk about their therapy sessions with their spouse on a regular basis, might not even realize that it could be inhibiting their free expression in session.  

The other factor is that people often come to their own individual therapy to talk about problems in their relationship.   They usually feel the need not to share certain aspects of this with their spouse.

To Share or Not to Share:  The Choice is Up to You
When you're in therapy, the choice is yours as to whether or not you share your experiences with your spouse or others.  But, before you share, it's worth considering the potential effects that talking about your sessions could have for your treatment.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.  

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.