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Swearing, Crying, Silence and Laughter – What’s allowed in counselling?

Person with long brown hair, smiling, wearing a green sari and bangles on right arm.  looking at a laptop as if on an online counselling session

The media and popular culture often paint unhelpful myths about what happens in counselling.

  • Do you worry you might have to hold back your swearing or be serious all the time?

  • Are you anxious about the box of tissues, perhaps feeling an expectation to cry?

  • Perhaps you fear not having enough to say and wonder what will happen if you’re silent.

What is allowed in counselling?

In this blog I share my own take, as a counsellor, on clients’ swearing, crying, silence and laughter to hopefully put you at ease if you are thinking of starting counselling.

What if I let out a swear word?

As a counsellor I often notice that many clients can feel like they need to be on their best behaviour when they first meet me. As they talk about really shitty things I wonder if some swear words would help.

Swear words can have so much more power and emphasis than our standard lingo and swearing can help many people to release pent-up strong emotions, which can be very powerful in therapy.

Holding back your usual way of speaking could hold some of this emotion back and leave you unable to fully express your emotions with me.

I want you to know that in my counselling sessions swearing is totally OK. I will not be offended!

I am not saying you have to swear – I just want to help you relax and feel you can talk like you normally do. You might not like swearing and that is totally fine too; I will not make you swear!

Do I have to cry?

The stereotypical image of counselling can often involve a box of tissues. [note: there are no boxes of tissues in my sessions as it's all online!]

Many people think they must cry. This is wrong.

Crying is just one way of showing and releasing emotion in the therapy room.

Many people feel tears coming to the surface and can’t bear to cry in front of me. This is OK. Others can’t stop crying in sessions and this is also OK. Or you might find tears don’t come up at all. This, too, is OK.

Crying is certainly not the crux of counselling for everyone.

I will not force you to cry in front of me.

I have worked with a lot of people who tell me they end up crying after our sessions and this feels helpful for them as showing me their tear-filled face feels so embarrassing. If this happens for you I would never force you to cry in our sessions.

Instead, I may get curious about what is going on for you with your feeling of embarrassment. It may be that you have some old memories and messages from school, or the family home, about what crying meant.

Many people choose to have email sessions with me as it means they don’t have to worry that they might end up crying in front of me.

More info on email counselling can be found in my blog 'What is email counselling?' here.

What if I can’t think of anything to say?

Silence in therapy can be incredibly powerful. You don’t need to talk all the time.

Silence can help give you space to process what we have just spoken about and let your mind run free to find what you might want to say next.

Silence also helps give you space to feel your emotions without being caught up in what you are saying.

If you find silence difficult, I will not force you to sit in silence.

However, it may be helpful to talk about, and explore together, what you find difficult about silence, as this will help you learn more about yourself and any defence mechanisms that might be at play.

What if I laugh in counselling?

Counselling does not just have to be for the sad times.

Sharing joy can be very important too as it helps me to learn more about the whole you. If, during our time working together, you get some great news and you have happy times, please feel free to share these in your sessions.

Just as I wouldn’t encourage you to hold in difficult emotions like anger, I also wouldn’t want you to sit there hiding your smile and laughter.

Counselling is allowed to be fun.

black and white photo of Chloe Foster who is an  Accredited Counsellor
Chloe Foster - Accredited Counsellor

Are you thinking about starting some counselling?

I offer an introductory session where you can meet me and find out more about how I can help you.

Find out more here.


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