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Old 04-15-2019, 07:09 PM   #1
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Question Crying in session and progress in therapy

I know I posted this in the In Session thread, but this is still rolling around in my head, a comment my therapist made at the end of my last session.

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As we were wrapping up, t said in a sort of...complimenting, almost...voice, "And you didn't cry this time!" Which half took me aback. Really? "Is not crying a good thing?" I asked. And she said something about a stronger sense of my self and holding things together.

It was our session wrap-up, so I didn't get a chance to pursue it, and I still find myself puzzled by the idea. Is that a measure of progress, not crying?
So I will just throw this out there as a general question, because I am thinking about how this pertains to my own progress, but I am also genuinely curious about other's experiences: What do you all experience or believe about the value (or not) of crying (or not) in therapy?

I'm still pondering this. I do cry often in my sessions. I am faced with a pretty daunting challenge, without a lot of opportunity to let my emotional guard down, so it tends to be pretty close to the surface while I'm there venting about and exploring the issues I don't usually talk about. Crying and not-crying has been a recurring theme in my therapy. My first "assignment" was to cry in the shower or somewhere where no one would hear me, because I was so tense I was practically vibrating; later on, I sobbed my way through every single session.

(For what it's worth, my therapist is typically empathetic and we work well together. It feels to me a bit like it was an unguarded moment, like she tipped her hand a little. But fruitful, I suppose, as it's given me a lot of different directions to think on.)
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Old 04-15-2019, 07:38 PM   #2
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Default Re: Crying in session and progress in therapy

I have had therapy on and off for many many years and I can count on one hand the number of times a tear rolled down my cheek in a session. Even then it would have been a single, silent tear that was quickly wiped away. I suppose my eyes might have "brimmed with tears" more times than that, but even that has been a seldom occurrence.
So in my situation my therapist would be thrilled if I out and out cried.


Personally I would love to be able to experience emotion freely in therapy, we have certainly cried many swimming pools full of tears in solitude over the course of life.
But I doubt we will ever feel safe enough to freely feel emotion in the presence of another human being. The handful of times when a tear has accidentally spilled out it has quickly been mopped up, swept under the carpet and made "gone" again.


So I guess people in therapy have different goals for different reasons. Some might need to work to contain emotion while others might work towards expressing it.


Maybe for you in that last instant your therapist was counting not-crying as a sign of good work in therapy. That doesn't mean she was right or that that was one of your goals. Maybe it was just a flippant comment gone wrong.
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Old 04-15-2019, 07:56 PM   #3
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Default Re: Crying in session and progress in therapy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Amyjay View Post
So I guess people in therapy have different goals for different reasons. Some might need to work to contain emotion while others might work towards expressing it.

Maybe for you in that last instant your therapist was counting not-crying as a sign of good work in therapy. That doesn't mean she was right or that that was one of your goals.
I agree with both of these points. For me, being able to cry in session felt like progress because I had trouble accessing and tolerating my emotions (I was much more likely to try to laugh it off). I also had difficulty trusting another person to be vulnerable enough to cry in front of them. I cry more often than not in session now, and I feel fairly comfortable with it. Sometimes my tears catch me off guard, and then it's useful to stop for a minute and ask myself why whatever I'm talking about is provoking more emotion than I had expected.

But sometimes if I can talk about a certain upsetting thing for the second or third or tenth time and not cry, that can be useful to notice because it indicates that I am handling the thing better and am feeling less distressed by it. It's not really my goal to cry less, though, because I don't think there is anything wrong with crying.

It's hard to know what your T meant by her comment, if anything. I sense that maybe you feel a bit judged? Since you're still thinking about it now, it seems like our might be worth talking about with her.
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Old 04-15-2019, 08:17 PM   #4
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Default Re: Crying in session and progress in therapy

I often cry in session--we joke that I'm on the "platinum tissue plan" with unlimited tissues. Sometimes it's more just tearing up a bit. Other times it's more regular crying, bordering on sobbing, where I might go through a dozen tissues and have trouble talking at times. It doesn't necessarily represent where my mind is, though. There are times when I've been feeling pretty awful, like today, but not shed many tears for whatever reason. (I told T that I thought maybe I used most of my tears up the night before. Or the Allegra was drying them up.) Other times, I'm pretty emotional, even though I thought going into session that I was mostly doing OK. The most telling thing for me is if I suddenly start crying over something T says or that I say. Particularly if it's not something I would have expected to make me cry. That can be a good clue to something that's affecting me.

I agree with what EM said, where if I can talk about something that usually makes me cry but then it doesn't, that can show progress. I used to cry every time I talked about ex-MC with T. Then there was a session where I realized I talked about him a bunch bit didn't really cry. T agreed that suggested I'm making progress.

Also, I tend to do a lot of crying in the shower, when alone in the car, or when alone at home on the couch. I don't have as much trouble letting the tears out if I'm alone. I cry in front of H at times, too, if I'm feeling really bad. I tend to have difficulty crying for the first time in front of someone, but once I've sort of broken that seal, it's easier to do again. It's weird, when I was talking to the backup T during the week that T was away a couple months ago, I started crying right at the beginning. Maybe I felt more at ease with her because we were on the phone, or maybe I was just in such a bad state that I would have cried with anyone giving the chance of relief. But then when I saw a T for consultation a month before that, I didn't cry once, despite talking about some intense topics.

I do find sometimes that it can help to get the tears out--I think there's some chemical (maybe a hormone?) that is released in sad tears. So if it's a really weepy session, I can leave feeling both exhausted and like a weight has been lifted because I got those emotions out. With not crying much today, it felt a bit different. There's also something about T just sitting there with me when I cry, generally not commenting on it (he will occasionally ask me what's going on if it seems to come out of nowhere). It seems to help normalize it and make me feel accepted. Because I would sometimes get punished for crying as a kid--or like if I was in trouble already, then kept crying, the crying prolonged it. And I think I got this message that if I cried in front of someone, it was this awful thing. So it's somewhat healing to be able to just sit there and do that with T. (And one of the most affecting moments with ex-MC was when he'd asked me a question, and I was crying so hard I couldn't answer, and I was just like, "I'm sorry," and he said "It's OK" in such a caring voice that it just really affected me. I think that's about when the transference kicked in.)
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Old 04-15-2019, 08:42 PM   #5
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Default Re: Crying in session and progress in therapy

I have trouble crying, but I think I did cry once in the past months when I went to my T. I generally am not able to cry and sometimes I feel I would feel better if I could. I try to cry alone, though, because it makes my h feel uncomfortable I guess.
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Old 04-15-2019, 09:33 PM   #6
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Default Re: Crying in session and progress in therapy

Ok here's my crying story. I was 6, when I last cried in front of anyone. (long and traumatic story) After that, I only cried if I was alone. It was hard but somehow I learned to suppress those emotions very deeply. One of my first sessions with T.... I "shocked him" by asking him what would happen if I cried? He casually pointed to the tissues and I stopped him and I was like "No, I mean, are you gonna yell at me or laugh?" He could not believe that I even thought that. He said "Absolutely not, that never even crossed my mind, in fact, I might cry with you"

Forward a few months when my dog got cancer and I started to talk about how would I handle losing him and we discussed crying more. He and I talked quite a bit about what would be the best reaction for me and made some "plans" for it.

1 week after he died, I had a session. This was 6 months and 1 week after I began therapy. I brought in a letter I wrote to my dog and read it, I began sobbing and he responded beautifully. More than I could have ever dreamed. That was the first time in my life that I felt "Normal" and ok for crying. I didn't cry much in therapy in general but I was able to even look him dead in the eye and cry a few times after that. I cried with him on our phone calls. It just became easy for me. For sure progress.

Then he left in December and I shut down.... In Jan things got really bad and I decided I need to try therapy again and I walked in, first session with a man I never met and just sat down and cried. I wasn't phased in the slightest and I realized as I left... I never could have done that without T. Very much progress. I have cried with baby T 2x and back up T 2x. I think it's also huge progress that I don't feel the "urge" to apologize for it. I think everyone is different, there is no right or wrong for crying. I remember those first 6 months with T, I was so jealous of all his clients who could easily cry. I wanted a moment with him like that. I thought something was terribly wrong with me.

At any rate.... for some it's just more normal and natural. That's ok. It doesn't always have to be a measure of progress, sometimes it's just being yourself. I am very much the same person I've always been with crying in regards to no way I'd cry in front of family or friends but I've become someone who doesn't care at all if I cry in therapy.
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Old 04-15-2019, 10:43 PM   #7
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Default Re: Crying in session and progress in therapy

The woman I hired first tried to get me to cry and went on about me not trusting her. I am not much of a crier and it is not something I find release from doing. Finally she stopped that. But then later she was talking about having her dog with her at her office at times (never ever when I was there - I refused) and told me that when clients "broke down" the dog would go over and lick them and that would "clear that [crying] right up" - which seemed a bit cruel to me to try and get clients to cry, then mock them for it and hope the dog got it to stop. I am very glad I did not fall prey to that ploy.
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Old 04-15-2019, 10:59 PM   #8
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Default Re: Crying in session and progress in therapy

I never thought about this before.

Lately, I usually only cry after trauma flashbacks, but am no stranger to crying. I'm quite emotional in sessions, so to me it's just another form of disclosure rather than a sign of progress.

My T doesn't react or bring attention to my tears. Come to think of it, I don't think he's ever brought up the subject.

Sometimes I feel some relief afterwards, sometimes calmness.
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Old 04-15-2019, 11:09 PM   #9
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Default Re: Crying in session and progress in therapy

Crying has never been helpful to me, so increasing the frequency of crying (I rarely cry) in any scenario in my life would not feel like progress for me personally.
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Old 04-16-2019, 12:23 AM   #10
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Default Re: Crying in session and progress in therapy

Quote:
Originally Posted by ElectricManatee View Post
It's hard to know what your T meant by her comment, if anything. I sense that maybe you feel a bit judged? Since you're still thinking about it now, it seems like our might be worth talking about with her.
You know, I've been wondering that, did that comment strike me because I feel judged somehow by it? I mostly feel interested in why this keeps popping up, but also feel a little bit "Really? WhatEVER." Judgement would be inconsistent with who my t has been in my therapy. I suspect she likely intended to convey something similar to what you and AmyJay are both pointing out about the ability to contain the emotions as topics roll around again, and the timing and tone missed the mark since we couldn't really pull back and discuss it.

I have found that when something rolls around in my head like this tugging at my attention, there's usually something there for me to learn. So partly I am trying to figure out where this fits in my big picture of therapy and recovery, and partly I am taken aback because the things I am talking about are daily and immediate and hard, and it seems that crying is a pretty appropriate emotional response.

So...grist for the mill, is that the saying? She's gone for a couple weeks. Maybe I'll have it all sorted by the time she gets back.
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