Is crying in therapy natural?

Yes, crying in therapy is not just natural but also appreciated. In this brief blog we will answer the question “is it okay to cry?”, while also delving into the benefits of crying in therapy. We will then discuss what it means to cry in therapy and some more information. 

What is crying? 

Humans are the only creatures in the world that shed tears in order to show our feelings. Some animals rely on other ways of communication i.e. their body language in this instance, but even though crying is a form of positive communication, it may cause some people to rethink their idea of what is deemed acceptable when communicating with one another. 

Everyone has a different view on whether or not they prefer getting emotional surrounded by friends or family versus being emotional privately. 

Is it okay to cry? Why would we want to weep in a counselling session? Or, for that matter, anywhere? We make goofy expressions, and it typically signifies we’re experiencing some level of sorrow, grief, or dissatisfaction. 

Many individuals believe that when they weep, they are at their most vulnerable. And I can be overwhelming to be vulnerable in therapy, however, it is also so much more. 

Is crying beneficial? 

A recent study took a look at the crying habits of 1,000 women and found that only one third experienced an improvement in mood after shedding a few. Interestingly, the more intense the cry, the greater the benefit, which may actually support the validity of a good, deep cry in therapy. Some theorists believe crying is evolutionarily designed to strengthen interpersonal relationships. Others point to the physical benefits.

Learning to weep is a fascinating developmental idea. We don’t have to teach infants how to cry; they’re already pros. During childhood, we offer a lot of soothing, shushing, and “calm down!” to keep emotional behaviours in check so they can operate within the social structure.

What does crying in therapy do? 

Exploring internalized stigma and baggage 

Inhibition is a feeling that makes one self-conscious and unconfident. Maybe you’ve come across or perhaps there’s a memory from your past that made you scared to shed tears as it might give others control over you, such as if someone said something like “big boys don’t cry,” or “emotion is weakness.” 

Alternatively, you can think about whether there was ever a time where saying or doing something would have been disadvantageous and left an impression on people for the wrong reasons such as: “if you cry, they win.”

Understanding why you’re crying and what this emotional release means is crucial in therapy. Did something bad happen when you cried in front of someone? What do you imagine might happen if you cry? Will you go crazy? Will the therapist think less of you, or feel overwhelmed? What would you gain by crying? And what have you gained by not crying? This is all prime material to discuss in a therapy session.

Systematic desensitization to help with stigma 

If what we’re talking about is a fear, us behaviorists believe that everyone has the ability to overcome their fears. One way to get rid of fears or phobias is called systematic desensitization. This technique works by slowly exposing oneself to the perceived ‘danger’ while keeping one’s emotions in check. 

So, if you’re nervous about bursting into tears in front of the cameras (or your therapist!), then imagining crying and relaxing would be appropriate at first. Once you get better at that, then imagining yourself crying while looking at a photo of said therapist would also do.

Learning and unlearning 

People sometimes come to me to try to express their anxiety but they can’t. They want the tears to flow out, but they just cant do it. Over time their emotions congeal into a solid ball of worry, which is not very pleasant. It’s even difficult for them to speak about the emotional block because their mind has formed into this big tough knot that can’t be undone easily. 

Often times people find themselves crying over not being able to cry, because that’s really what’s going on inside of their head as it comes into session – that all they want is for those feelings to flow freely from them into my welcoming hands without tear ducts though, and no way out.

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The act of crying 

Some people act out the crying behavior (looking down, body heaviness, scrunched face, groaning, etc.) and then later bring about feelings that match their actions. Some would say this is faking it, others would say you’re leading with your body and letting your emotions catch up. 

They say forcing a smile makes you feel happier, so forced crying behavior may tip you into a full-fledged crying jag.

Being mindful of your thoughts 

Sometimes you can solve a problem as easily as this. While thinking about a problem, it’s easy to get lost in thought and put too much focus on your head. This can be problematic as sometimes you might not understand what’s going on in your own body. 

But the reality is that often you can find a solution there if you try to observe your physical reactions a little bit more closely. And once you figure out the cause of the problems, go ahead and seek assistance from trusted sources or simply try fixing it yourself. By listening to one’s own body and being aware of its reactions, a person can understand what needs to happen next alone before going into troubleshooting mode with another person! 

Just pay attention and notice how your body reacts if you don’t have a solution – chances are you’ll get a vivid glimpse directly from within!

Don’t force your emotions 

In therapy, it’s important to have a safe space where you can be comfortable being who you are. If the task of crying is difficult for you at this time, you don’t have to beat yourself up about it. Accepting that this is something that isn’t happening right now, might actually be a good thing for two reasons: 

  • By accepting that feeling, whatever emotion you’re feeling right now is just as valid as any other emotion, and by choosing not to focus on emotions you aren’t feeling. 
  • You may get another layer of an issue beaten out of you: I’m a flawed person because I’m only having difficulty expressing my grief in therapy. Sometimes it’s best to step back from our initial understanding, there’s always “something else” lurking underneath what we think the problem is. 

Therapeutic crying: What does crying in therapy mean?

What can therapists do to assist clients in having a therapeutic cry? It’s actually quite simple: show the utmost respect and patience for this natural process. Tears, like natural physiological processes that promote physical healing, may help people heal from painful psychological events in life. 

Creating the ideal environment for therapeutic weeping starts with establishing a relationship of trust and safety that allows clients to communicate their wounds with you, no matter how long it takes. People can recover pieces of themselves that they’ve been too afraid to admit and own via that relationship and the feeling of released emotion.

A sympathetic–parasympathetic (S-P) sequence is used in therapeutic sobbing. The S-phase is marked by the emergence of symptoms of unresolved hurt, as well as the client’s perception of being in a supportive environment. While the client may look agitated, there is a deep underlying awareness that something significant is happening, and the client is a willing participant in the absence of any compulsion to share more than he or she want to.

The S-phase achieves a psychophysiological peak of intensity and promptly shifts to the P, or healing, phase with continued therapist assistance. When this happens, the heightened physiological responses go away, and the S-phase psychological emotions of dread and/or anxiety are replaced by the client reliving the painful incident, or a portion of it, as if it were occurring now, but also feeling a therapeutic emotional release.

 Conclusion

There are countless causes as to why people cry. The reasons behind this action vary from stress, to extreme emotions such as extreme anger or sadness and so on. It is important to recognize the different types of tears and why we shed them. 

Crying is a natural method for people to express or release their emotions. We weep for a variety of reasons, including grief, rage, and excitement. 

Crying has been shown to have a cathartic impact that can help us feel better in the past. According to certain research, repression of expression, such as not sobbing, might increase the development of mental health problems and even sickness.

Psychotherapists and counsellors from nearly every school or persuasion regard crying during the process of therapy as constructive rather than destructive, though there may be some exceptions to this general rule such as depression, some neuropsychological conditions and manipulative crying.  

Citations 

In Praise of Therapeutic Crying, Therapy’s Best Kept Secret. Jeffrey Von Glahn, May/June 2012.

Is Crying Good for You? By Serusha Govender. https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/is-crying-good-for-you

Is it OK to cry? By Lorna Collier. https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2016/01/therapy-tears

What we recommend for Counselling

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression or any other mental disorders then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.