What You Should (And Shouldn’t) Share in Therapy

Therapy is a safe place for you to talk about your deepest thoughts, feelings, and most challenging problems. Every professional is bound by some form of ethical code, and therapists are no exception.  Your therapist will be bound by patient-therapist confidentiality, meaning you can rest assured that your conversations will stay between the two of you.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule, which a good therapist will inform you of from the onset of therapy. If your therapist neglects to explain the exceptions to keeping what you share confidential, ask them about it. This is necessary knowledge for you to be able to trust that what you share in therapy will remain with the therapist only. In all actuality, there are very few reasons that your therapist would need to break confidentiality. This means that almost anything you share with your therapist will never leave the confines of their office.

An all-too-common worry is that what is shared during therapy will be judged or viewed in a negative light by the therapist. It’s not uncommon to want to be liked and accepted by your therapist, but it is important to recognise when this desire impedes the therapeutic process. For example, you might find yourself wanting to withhold information or censor your thoughts, feelings and experiences out of wanting to be ‘liked’ by your therapist or perceived in a certain light.

Your therapist is interested in getting to know how you experience life. They are skilled at leaving their own biases and values outside of the therapy room, meaning that they will care for you unconditionally and regardless of what you divulge, even if it differs from their own belief system or worldview. Moreover, if you hold back on what you tell your therapist out of fear of judgment, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to help you as effectively as possible since they’re not getting all the necessary information about you. It’s like putting together a puzzle without all the pieces. The bottom line is that the success of your therapeutic experience depends, in part, on how much you are willing to let your therapist in on your feelings, experiences, challenges etc. Like exercise or studying for an exam, therapy is one of those life experiences where you get as much as you give. 

 What you might not want to share and why

 When one has been struggling for a while and then eventually takes the step to meet with a trusted professional, it can feel good to share everything all at once because it’s been held inside for so long and needs to come out. In these cases, the first few therapy sessions might be a one-sided dialogue with the client purging themselves of all their inner turmoil.  While it’s good to open up to your therapist, research shows that those who “over-share” in the first sessions tend to leave therapy early because of feelings of shame and regret about telling someone everything before a trusting relationship has been established.


When beginning therapy with a new therapist, consider what you want to share in the first few sessions and share only what you’re ready to. Your therapist will ask you questions that lead you to explore your feelings, thoughts, and problems. If you don’t feel ready to explore certain areas of yourself, it’s okay to let your therapist know that.  Allow yourself time to develop a trusting therapeutic relationship and consider what you’re ready to talk about in each session. If something feels too raw to explore in early sessions, your therapist will respect your desire to step back and discuss during a later session. Therapists are trained to take “temperature checks”, that is, picking up on verbal and nonverbal cues that may suggest your hesitancy to delve deeper into a certain topic. Remember that you are entitled to a measured, gradual approach to opening up to your therapist. For many, this kind of approach is conducive to the best results 

Further, therapy is a financial sacrifice for many. To get the most out of each of your sessions, work with your therapist to shape each session to meet your needs. Work collaboratively with your therapist to identify priorities for each session and establish an agenda to guide your time together. These ‘agenda items’ should largely relate back to the therapeutic goals you set with your therapist during your initial sessions.

They will define and guide the trajectory of your work and help you steer away from topics that may be better explored with an unpaid friend. As such, try to avoid talking about surface topics such as the weather. Naturally, there will be some surface talk and pleasantries shared at the beginning of every session as you ease into the agenda, but limit this to the first 5 minutes. After that, stick to topics that allow you to deeply explore your inner self and to work toward your goals. Therapists are trained listeners. They provide an attentive ear and are there to work with you to advance your therapeutic objectives in the best way that works for you. 

Get the Results You Want

There is no right or wrong when it comes to what you share in your sessions. They truly are your sessions, and you should approach them as such. To get the best results out of your therapeutic work, think about what information will help advance your therapeutic goals. Share this information at a pace that’s comfortable for you, secure in the knowledge that almost nothing you share will be disclosed elsewhere or judged by your therapist. 

Moreover, your therapy sessions are a safe place to be open and honest with not only your therapist, but yourself. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable with a professional will help you build and lead the life you want. 

 *The content of this article was inspired by the blog “Should I Tell My Therapist Everything? Will It Get Me in Trouble?” by Stephanie Hairston.  

Written & Reviewed by Karen Hurworth, Counselor, in 2024