Therapist Over-Sharing? Here's How To Take Back Your Session

If you start to notice your therapist is doing more speaking than listening, it's not necessarily a sign that your therapist isn't working out. It can be helpful to have a mental health professional who is willing to share their own experiences, especially if you feel more at ease talking to someone who's been in similar situations. Known as "self-disclosure," the practice is based on the belief that revealing personal information can help both parties better connect, while also minimizing shame. Some research has found that when therapists break down their walls, patients are more likely to keep on with their sessions.

While it isn't necessary to imitate mental wellness from a veteran of your same affairs, it can be helpful to hear perspectives from an expert who's also "been there." But therapy isn't a TED talk. And in some cases, as research has pointed out, too much self-disclosure can actually be harmful to your own progress. If you find yourself with a therapist who is over-sharing, it might be time to take back your session. 

Use your words

If you're uncomfortable with the amount of time your therapist spends self-disclosing, it's important to speak up sooner than later. Remember, your time with them is limited, if you want to get the most out of each session, it's imperative the focus on your goals. Symmetry Counseling outlines specific ways you can phrase the feedback to get your point across, including placing the focus on you so they understand how their self-disclosure is affecting you.

If you're struggling with how to explain your feelings, try telling your therapist what's going on with your body. Rather than assign an emotion, describe physical sensations. This can be as simple as saying, "My stomach felt unsettled when you were talking to me." If you'd rather not talk about your feelings, you can question what you notice your therapist doing. "You've been sharing your personal stories more than I have this session. Is there any reason for this?" 

Talking to your therapist about their over-sharing is a great opportunity to practice communicating your feelings and autonomy with the one person whose job it is to help you do just that. Even if you think your self-awareness skillset is at its lowest, giving yourself the gift of expressing your own physical sensation or noticing their behavior. Consider it a gateway to discovering and discussing what you need (and what you don't) in order to get the most out of your therapy sessions.

Boundaries as a bridge

You may feel intimidated or nervous about talking to your therapist about your therapist, but rest assured, it's a welcome way of engagement. Many therapists depend on that feedback to help them not only improve their sessions with you, but their practice as a whole. Setting boundaries can also become a bridge to more honest communication between the two of you.

It's also vital to put those limits in place so that your sessions stay focused. If you find your therapist slips back into the over-sharing even after you confront them the first time, be sure to bring that up in feedback. Consider how your needs aren't being met and ask for them to do things differently moving forward. For example, there's nothing wrong with asking for your therapist to stick with a specific schedule during your visits. You can also request regular progress checks  to gauge how you're doing so that you both stay on track.

Therapists are people too, and sharing personal experiences doesn't make your therapist bad at what you pay them to do. However, if you want to get the most out of talk therapy, there's nothing wrong with reminding them to leave some of their personal stories for their own therapist.