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.

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 thatโ€ฆ

6. When did you first recognize thatโ€ฆ

7. What are your current internal experiences and reactions?

8. Iโ€™m noticing thatโ€ฆ

9. What Iโ€™m hearing isโ€ฆ

10. It sounds likeโ€ฆ

11. I wonder ifโ€ฆ

12. It makes a lot of sense hearing it from your perspective… and, I wonder what would happen ifโ€ฆ

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 [evidence that supports an idea], but other studies have found that [evidence that doesn’t support an idea].

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 toโ€ฆ

23. Iโ€™m not sure I understand.

24. Help me to understand.

25. Correct me if Iโ€™m wrong, butโ€ฆ

26. What am I missing? Something doesnโ€™t quite match upโ€ฆ

27. Is there anything else I need to know?

28. Did I hear you correctly when you saidโ€ฆ

29. May I pause you for a minute?

30. Can we return to what you said earlier aboutโ€ฆ

31. It looks like you shut down when I said [previous statement or question]. 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 [name of relative/significant other/friend/colleague] would say if they were here in this room with us?

35. If it was [name of relative/significant other/friend/colleague] in this situation, what advice would you give them?

36. What does [belief/action/feeling] look like to you?

37. What does [belief/action/feeling] mean to you?

38. What message did you hear when they saidโ€ฆ

39. How would your life be different if you didnโ€™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, Iโ€™m not sure how I would have reacted if in your shoes.

43. Youโ€™re the expert on you.

44. I wish I had the answer to that.

45. Thatโ€™s a really good question. What do you think?

46. On the one hand [client statement or behavior], but on the other [contrary client statement or behavior]

47. You say [client statement], but your actions sayโ€ฆ

48. Iโ€™m concerned thatโ€ฆ

49. I can only imagine how [emotion word] that was for you.

50. Can we explore this more?

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

Free Printable Therapy Handouts & Worksheets

(Updated 1/25/21) Free PDF printable forms, handouts, and worksheets to use with clients in group and individual sessions

This is a list of free downloadable therapy forms, handouts, and worksheets for mental illness/substance use disorders. Please repost and share with every therapist you know who would benefit! New resources are added on a regular basis.

Click here for a list of sites with free therapy worksheets/handouts and here for for a list of printable workbooks, manuals, and self-help guides.


Group Activities

Good for newly formed groups. Each group member writes down their “first impression” of other group members. The facilitator then reviews each “impression,” and group members have the opportunity to share their answers.

Print/cut the cards, fold, and place in a container. Group members take turns drawing the cards and answering the questions.

Give group members 15-20 minutes to collect signatures. The first person to collect all signatures wins.

Print/cut the cards, fold, and place in a container to pass around. This activity works best with a working group.

Group Discussion Topics

Therapy Handouts

Therapy Worksheets

๐Ÿ“‚Daily Self-Inventory for Mental Health Professionals