Do I have to talk about my childhood?

One of the most common questions that clients ask me is “Do I have to talk about my childhood?” A therapist should never try and force a client to talk about anything they don’t want to, and it must be recognised that some clients find talking about their past experiences very difficult. However, it might be useful to think about the importance of addressing your childhood in therapy and the benefits this could bring.


This article gives seven reasons why talking to your therapist about your childhood may be helpful for you.

7 reasons why talking about your childhood during therapy can help

1. Remembering the past

As adults, we have busy lives and tend to focus on our day-to-day functioning. It can be useful to spend some time reflecting on the past and thinking about which memories are evoked. You may realise that significant events which occurred during childhood actually still influence you today.

2. Working through repressed emotions

If events in our childhood have not been adequately processed, complex emotions connected to such events can be repressed. These repressed feelings can influence the capacity to move forward as an adult and can manifest in conditions such as anxiety and depression. Spending time focusing and revisiting difficult childhood emotions can prove to be an incredibly therapeutic and freeing experience.

3. Reviewing your attachment style

Our early experiences with our caregivers can set a template for our adult relationships. Thinking about the characteristics of our early interaction between parent and child can help us to reflect on the quality of our relationships in later life. While it may be impossible to remember your exact experiences at such a young age, your therapist can help you to think about your family environment and the pattern of care you received. This can help you to understand how you interact with different people in your life now.

4. Understanding your place within groups

Clients often come to therapy and wish to talk about their experiences functioning in groups. This may be at work, at university or within friendships. To help clients to understand their roles with adult groups, it is often useful to reflect on their roles within their family of origin. Patterns of relating to family members during childhood can often be repeated throughout life. By understanding and analysing your role in the family, you may gain greater insight into the roles that you fall into as an adult.

5. Sibling rivalry

The relationship with your siblings as a child may hold important clues about how you interact with others as an adult. Childhood can often be a place where sibling rivalry, jealousy or competitiveness prevails. By reviewing and reflecting on these experiences, you may see similar patterns taking place in your adult relationships. The knowledge of where such feelings originate from can enable relationships to be viewed through a fresh mindset and therefore evoke change.

6. Coping with grief

After the death of a family member, particularly a parent, it can be difficult to know how to move forward. A therapist can help you to cope with your feelings of grief, and to process the complex emotions which arise. Reviewing childhood relationships with the deceased parent can help to create a fuller understanding of the relationship you shared.

7. Gaining a new perspective

As an adult, it can be useful to look back on the stages of childhood and adolescence with a new perspective and this can enable you to view yourself in a different way. With the benefit of hindsight and experience, you may be able to view your younger self with more compassion.

Navigating through childhood experiences can be a challenging and emotional part of therapy. However, with the help of a supportive and competent therapist, there is much to be gained from revisiting the past and ultimately can lead to a greater understanding of your adult self that will allow you to move forward in life with greater clarity.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG23 8PY
Written by Isobel Brooks, BSc, MSc, MBACP (Accred)
Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG23 8PY

Isobel Brooks is a Psychodynamic Psychotherapist working in private practice in Basingstoke. ( She offers both face to face and online sessions. Isobel also works part-time for Basingstoke Counselling Service.

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