Are Awkward Silences Normal in Therapy?
Nobody likes an awkward silence.
Maybe you’ve just started therapy and you’re not sure how to open up.
Maybe you’ve been attending for a while and you’re not sure what else to talk about.
Either way, the quiet moments may make you feel nervous and uncomfortable – but sometimes, they can be the key to therapeutic breakthroughs.
Here at KMA Therapy, we know you want complete transparency about the therapy process. For over 14 years, we’ve been helping our clients understand what happens in therapy, make the most of their sessions, and get the help they deserve.
After reading this article, you’ll know why therapists purposefully create moments of silence during therapy and how to tell when these silences may become a problem.
Is it Okay to Have Awkward Silences During Therapy?
The short answer is yes.
Effective therapists often create moments of silence to help you reflect and deepen your therapy experience.
Here’s why your therapist might be creating these awkward silences on purpose:
Why Does My Therapist Go Silent During Sessions?
Therapy doesn’t work the same way as a normal conversation – it’s about ensuring you have the time to explore your feelings and experiences.
Silence is a therapeutic technique that effective therapists can use to create a safe space for you to reflect and find new meaning.
Silence in therapy can help you:
- Move through “stuck” feelings
- Collect your thoughts and figure out what you want to say
- Explain your thoughts without the fear of being interrupted
- Process any intense feelings you’re experiencing in the present moment
- Make new connections and realizations about the topic you’re exploring
Your therapist may also stay quiet to create space for you to reflect on your feelings about the silence itself.
Being aware of how the silence makes you feel – whether it’s nervous, shy, or frustrated – can be an indication of how you react in other situations, too.
Overall, it’s normal for these quiet pauses to make you feel a bit uncomfortable at first.
But over time, a good therapist will create a strong relationship with you, and these silences will gradually become more comfortable.
When are Awkward Silences in Therapy a Problem?
When you have a good relationship with your therapists, silence can be uncomfortable, but you’ll still feel a sense of trust with your therapist.
But if your therapist isn’t using silence effectively, you may feel like your therapist isn’t paying attention to you.
Silence in therapy can be a problem if:
- You feel like your therapist is ignoring you
- You feel like you’re not making progress in your sessions
- Your therapist won’t engage with you when you ask questions
- Your therapist seems unengaged and uninterested during sessions
- Your therapist doesn’t remember things you mentioned earlier in the session
Effective therapists will show you they’re paying attention to you even when they’re not talking – they’ll show you they’re actively listening, nod, and stay connected to what you’re experiencing.
You shouldn’t feel ignored, even during awkward silences.
How to Deal with an Unengaged Therapist
Connecting with the right therapist can be the most integral part of the therapy process.
If you like your therapist, but awkward silences in therapy are making you really uncomfortable, it’s okay to talk to your therapist about it.
They’ll be able to work with you and figure out new ways to help you explore your feelings and hold space for your thoughts.
However, if awkward silences are only one of the issues you’re experiencing, your therapist may not be the right fit.
When you’re with the right therapist, you’ll feel excited about sessions, like you’re making progress, and free to express your true self without judgment.
The wrong therapist will leave you feeling drained, frustrated, and uncomfortable showing your true self.
If you think your therapist is the wrong fit, it’s okay to try seeing somebody new.
Seeing the wrong therapist doesn’t mean therapy won’t work for you.
Many people see a few different therapists before finding the one they stick with!
Read our article on how to find a therapist to learn our tips to make sure your therapist is an ideal fit for you.
Next Steps for Having a Great Therapy Experience
After reading this article, you know why therapists use silence during therapy, how to know if they’re doing it well, and how to know it may be time to see a new therapist.
Here at KMA Therapy, we know you want to have a therapy experience that makes you feel validated, seen, and supported. For over 14 years, we’ve matched our clients with their best-fit therapists and helped them make meaningful life changes.
Book an appointment today or connect with our caring team to learn more.
If you’re not looking to book an appointment right now, check out these resources to learn more about having a great therapy experience:
- If you think your therapist is the wrong fit, read: What Should I Do if I Don’t Like My Therapist?
- If you’re ready to start over with a new therapist, read: 22 Questions to Ask Your New Therapist
- If you feel like you’re not getting anywhere in your sessions, read: How to Make Better Progress in Therapy