September 4


Unlocking the Silent Client: How to Get Them Talking in Therapy

By Joshua Turner

September 4, 2023

Clients may not always be willing to open up and share their thoughts and feelings when they come to therapy. Getting them to talk and feel comfortable in the session can be challenging for a therapist. However, building a trusting and supportive relationship can help them feel more comfortable and willing to open up.

Understanding your client is the first step in getting them to talk. Each person is unique, and their reasons for seeking treatment may differ. Listening and understanding their needs can help you tailor your approach and create a safe and non-judgmental space for them to share.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding their needs is essential in creating a safe and non-judgmental space for them to share.
  • Building trust and rapport can help them feel more comfortable and willing to open up.
  • Effective communication strategies can help them talk and feel heard.

Understanding the Client

Assessing Personality

The therapist can use various personality assessments to understand them better. Some of the most commonly used tests include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), and the Big Five Personality Traits.

Recognizing Symptoms

Some common symptoms of these disorders include mood swings, feelings of hopelessness, and difficulty sleeping. Recognizing these symptoms can help create a treatment plan that is tailored to their needs.

Understanding Worldviews

The therapist must understand the client’s beliefs, values, and attitudes towards life. Understanding their worldview can help identify and overcome negative thought patterns or behaviors. It also helps create a treatment plan that is aligned with their goals and aspirations.

Building Trust and Rapport

Creating Comfortable Environment

It includes having a welcoming waiting area, comfortable seating, and a clean and organized office. You can also provide refreshments like water or tea to help them feel more comfortable. Be mindful of the temperature and lighting in the room, as it can impact their comfort level.

Effective Communication

It involves active listening, asking open-ended questions, and being empathetic. Avoid interrupting them and validate their feelings and experiences. Appropriate body language can help them feel heard and understood, such as maintaining eye contact and nodding.

Bonding and Emotional Connection

It can be achieved by sharing personal experiences, vulnerability, and genuine interest in their lives. Be mindful of cultural differences and avoid making assumptions. Building a solid relationship can help them feel more comfortable opening up and sharing their thoughts and feelings.

Effective Communication Strategies

Active Listening

It involves paying close attention to the client’s words and showing empathy towards their feelings. You can demonstrate active listening by making eye contact, nodding, and using verbal cues such as “mm-hmm” and “I see.” Doing this creates a safe space for them to express themselves, and they are more likely to open up to you.

Asking Open-Ended Questions

These types of questions encourage them to elaborate on their thoughts and feelings, which can provide valuable insight into their mental state.


Examples of open-ended questions include “Can you tell me more about that?” and “How did that make you feel?” These questions can help you gain a deeper understanding of their situation and help them explore their emotions.

Understanding Communication Style

Every client has a unique communication style, and it’s necessary to understand and adapt to that style. Some may be more comfortable sharing their feelings through art or writing, while others prefer to talk openly. You should be aware of these differences and adjust your approach accordingly. For example, you might use visual aids or metaphors to help someone who struggles with verbal communication.

Setting Therapy Goals


The therapist should encourage the clients to actively participate in setting meaningful and achievable goals. You should also provide guidance and support in helping them identify specific goals relevant to their needs.

Understanding Strengths

The therapist should help them identify their strengths and how they can use them to achieve their goals. This can help build their confidence and motivation and provide a sense of direction and purpose.

Problem Solving

The therapist should help them identify the obstacles that may prevent them from achieving their goals and work with them to develop strategies for overcoming them. They should also help the client identify resources and support systems to help them achieve their goals.

Dealing with Resistance

Managing Anger and Rejection

When a client is resistant to talk, it could be because they are angry or feel rejected. Valuing their feelings and letting them know you understand their perspective is vital. Encourage them to express their anger or frustration constructively by writing it down or talking about it in therapy. Doing so can help them release their emotions and build trust in the therapeutic relationship.

Building Reserved Confidence

Some may hesitate to talk in therapy because they need more confidence in themselves or the therapeutic process. Build their confidence by acknowledging their strengths and progress. Encourage them to set achievable goals and celebrate their successes. These things will help them feel more comfortable and confident in the sessions.

Promoting Self-Compassion

Some may also be resistant to talk because they are experiencing shame or self-criticism. Encourage them to practice self-compassion by being kind and understanding towards themselves. Help them identify their negative self-talk and reframe it more positively. Promoting self-compassion can help them feel more comfortable and willing to open up in therapy.

Therapeutic Techniques

Carl Rogers’ Techniques

Carl Rogers’ person-centered approach is a popular technique used in therapy to encourage individuals to open up. This technique involves active listening, empathy, and unconditional positive regard. The therapist creates a non-judgmental environment where they feel safe sharing their thoughts and feelings. This approach is beneficial for those who struggle with trust and vulnerability.

Positive CBT Exercises

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely used therapeutic technique that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. Positive CBT exercises involve identifying and challenging negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones. These exercises can help them reframe their thinking and develop a positive outlook.

Healing Conversations

Healing conversations involve exploring the client’s emotions and experiences in a supportive, non-judgmental environment. The therapist encourages them to express their feelings and helps them identify behavioral patterns. This technique can be handy for those who have experienced trauma or have difficulty expressing their emotions.

Evaluating Progress

Understanding Therapeutic Process

Evaluating progress is an integral part of therapy. However, it is necessary to understand that progress is not always linear, and setbacks can happen. As a therapist, it is vital to explain to them the therapeutic process and how progress is measured. This will help them understand what to expect and avoid feeling discouraged.

Providing Positive Feedback

Be specific and highlight specific behaviors or actions that demonstrate progress. For example, you could say, “I noticed that you were able to express your feelings more clearly today, which is a great step forward.”

Promoting Self-Discovery

Encouraging them to reflect on their experiences and emotions can help them understand themselves better and make progress. Create a safe, non-judgmental environment where they feel comfortable exploring their thoughts and feelings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some practical ways to encourage a client to open up in therapy?

Use active listening and reflection to create a safe and supportive environment for them to share their thoughts and feelings. Asking open-ended questions and empathetic statements can help them feel heard and understood.

How can a therapist help a client who resists talking in therapy?

There are a variety of techniques to help those who are resistant to talking, including mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and creative expression. They must be patient and non-judgmental and work at their pace.

What are some strategies for engaging a quiet client in therapy?

Gentle encouragement, validation, and praise to help quiet them feel more comfortable opening up. Non-verbal cues like nodding and smiling can help them feel heard and understood.

How can a therapist create a safe and welcoming environment for an unwilling client?

Establishing clear boundaries, being non-judgmental, and creating a sense of trust and rapport can help create a safe and welcoming environment. Using humor and empathy can help them feel more comfortable and willing to open up.

What are some alternative approaches to traditional talk therapy for clients who struggle to speak?

Alternative approaches include art therapy, music therapy, and play therapy. These approaches can help them express themselves nonverbally and be particularly effective for those struggling to speak.

How can a therapist praise a client in therapy without making them uncomfortable?

Therapists can praise clients using specific, genuine statements focusing on their strengths and progress. Be mindful of their comfort level and avoid making them uncomfortable or embarrassed.

You might also like