Is it normal to cry during therapy?

A few things come to mind when picturing a therapist's office: a couch, a bookshelf of self-help books, and tissues. Even so, in our search to be "normal" we often question if it's normal to cry or how much crying is "ok" during a counseling session. While it is not the case with every person and in every session, tears are often a part of the therapeutic process.  Here are three reasons why people cry during therapy sessions.

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  • THE THERAPEUTIC RELATIONSHIP There is no relationship like the relationship between a client and counselor.  In your everyday life, you are inundated by other people's opinions about everything you do. You face societal pressures dictating how you should think, feel and behave. Within the safety of the therapeutic relationship, there isn't judgement or expectation. There is a freeness that comes with this acceptance - with that freeness, tears may also come.
  • RELEASING BUILT UP EMOTION  Think about all of the things you carry around on any given day. Pressures to be the perfect parent, friend, spouse and employee. You are constantly making sure you are conducting yourself appropriately, assessing situations in order to effectively problem solve, and juggling multiple tasks flawlessly - basically 'on your game' all day long. All of this takes an emotional toll that gets heavy to pack around. When you get into a safe place, with a person with whom you've built trust, you are free unload some of that built up emotion. And, part of that unpacking of emotional energy can come in the form of tears. For that one hour, you don't have to be 'everything to everyone' - you just get to be you.
  • TIME FOR SELF REFLECTION There are very few times in our daily lives when we are able to stop and really take a look at ourselves and our lives. As mentioned above, the therapeutic relationship allows us to take a look at ourselves in a very honest way, with our defenses down. When we do this, all kinds of things can bubble to the surface: fear, anger, guilt, pride. Sometimes the 'stuff' that bubbles to the surface comes out in the form of tears.

We feel vulnerable when we cry, and unfortunately in our culture, there is a lot of stigma around crying. Please hear me when I say there is nothing wrong with crying in therapy!  In fact, in addition to shedding tears, it is completely normal for people to... shout, cuss or become silent as they process through thoughts and emotions. When it comes right down to it, whatever reactions you have throughout the therapeutic process are valid and acceptable.

Remember: there are tissues all over a therapist's office for a reason. While I do not expect tears, I welcome them into each session.

If you live in or around Spokane and are thinking about counseling, give me a call for a free 15-minute phone consultation: (509) 999-8696.