Do You Speak Therapist?

A list of common questions and phrases used in therapy – includes a free PDF printable version of this resource

Do You Speak Therapist?

Therapy Language

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Therapists have their own unique (and purposeful) language. We may use clinical jargon when talking to other clinicians, but when we’re with our clients (and most likely, with other significant people in our lives), we are focused and thoughtful.

Therapy is a tool for self-discovery; as therapists, it’s important to know how to effectively employ this tool. (For example, a hammer, while a useful tool, would not be effective if someone used the handle to pound a nail instead of the head.) What we say and how we say it is powerful: open-ended questions, reflections, clarifications, etc.

The following is a list of questions/phrases I find myself using in individual therapy and group sessions to explore, empathize, empower, and motivate change, including a few versions of the “miracle question” (a question used in therapy that asks the client to imagine what their life would look like if, miraculously, all of their problems disappeared and everything was perfect).

Click below to access a printable PDF version of this list.


For additional conversation starters and questions, see 161 Questions to Explore Values, Ideas, & Beliefs.


Therapy Language

1. How are you feeling?
2. How does/did that make you feel?
3. What would happen if you gave yourself permission to feel your emotions?
4. What was that experience like for you?
5. When did you first notice that…
6. When did you first recognize that…
7. What are your current internal experiences and reactions?
8. I’m noticing that…
9. What I’m hearing is…
10. It sounds like…
11. I wonder if…
12. It makes a lot of sense hearing it from your perspective… and, I wonder what would happen if…
13. May I share some feedback with you?
14. Are you open to a suggestion?
15. Would you like to hear a different perspective?
16. May I share my observations?
17. Would you like to know more about [mental health topic]?
18. Some research indicates that __________, but other studies have found that __________.
19. Tell more about that.
20. Tell me what that was like for you.
21. Will you say more about that?
22. Can you speak to…
23. I’m not sure I understand.
24. Help me to understand.
25. Correct me if I’m wrong, but…
26. What am I missing? Something doesn’t quite match up…
27. Is there anything else I need to know?
28. Did I hear you correctly when you said…
29. May I pause you for a minute?
30. Can we return to what you said earlier about…
31. It looks like you shut down when I said __________. Can we talk about it?
32. You seem distracted today. Do you want to talk about something else?
33. Do you want to take a break from this topic?
34. What do you think __________ would say if they were here in this room with us?
35. If it was __________ in this situation, what advice would you give them?
36. What does __________ look like to you?
37. What does __________ mean to you?
38. What message did you hear when they said…
39. How would your life be different if you didn’t have [mental illness, an addiction, this problem, etc.]?
40. Was there anything you could have done differently?
41. It sounds like you were doing the best you could with what you had at the time.
42. Honestly, I’m not sure how I would have reacted if in your shoes.
43. You’re the expert on you.
44. I wish I had the answer to that.
45. That’s a really good question. What do you think?
46. On the one hand __________, but on the other…
47. You say __________, but your actions…
48. I’m concerned that…
49. I can only imagine how __________ that was for you.
50. Can we explore this more?
Do You Speak Therapist?

Author: Cassie Jewell

Cassie Jewell, introvert and avid reader, is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and licensed substance abuse treatment practitioner with a Master's Degree in Community Counseling.

One thought on “Do You Speak Therapist?”

  1. An interesting article, but use it carefully. At one stage my job was made redundant because the company was put into receivership. I went to the GP for meds for a massive migraine. I explained that I had lost my job, I was the sole support for 3 children and would have to sell my house. When he immediately asked me “and how do you feel about that?” … he nearly didn’t survive to see another patient. Best wishes from Helen Sent from my iPhone

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