This has happened so many times. I’m working with a client. In the middle of a session, deep in conversation. They let out a “F&%k” or a “Sh*t!” after which, as if they had emitted a very loud, involuntary fart, they slap their hand over their mouth. Eyes wide with horror, they say, “Oh my God! I’m so sorry!”
Looking at them cluelessly I sincerely ask, “For what?” Then an instant later I realize they’re apologizing for swearing.
OMG! Do I look like their grandma!? Well, yes, I might actually…
Truly, I appreciate the desire to be polite and all that. I believe in being respectful and civil with each other. My parents rarely swore in front of me. I was reared on these two guidelines of socially acceptable cursing:
First: Words have power. Select them thoughtfully, including how you use curse words. [The Four Agreements, Agreement #1–Be impeccable with your word.] My parents would say that over-dependency on curse words is the sign of an unimaginative mind and I’m inclined to agree. Use them for good, not evil. Evil use of cussing is pretty easy to spot. Weaponized curse words is one of the more obvious forms of verbal abuse.
Second: Don’t dilute the punch of a well-placed curse word by using them all the time. You want to reserve a good cuss word for when you really need to make an impression. A well placed “Sh*t!” coming from the mouth of a clean speaker, like maybe your grandma, grabs your attention. Whoa! What was that!?
Is It OK To Cuss In Therapy?
Taking all that into consideration, this is my personal opinion about the use of curse words in therapy:
- Generally, I’m glad that you are comfortable enough with me, your therapist, to talk as freely with me as you do in “normal life”.
- As long as the cussing doesn’t cross the line to abusive language, we’re good. It’s in couples counseling where we need to watch that most closely.
- I hope you’re OK if I cuss occasionally, too.
Elvira G. Aletta, PhD, Founder & CEO
Life gave Dr. Aletta the opportunity to know what it’s like to hurt physically and emotionally. After an episode of serious depression in her mid-twenties, Dr. Aletta was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease that relapsed throughout her adulthood. While treatable, the cure was often as hard to bear as the disease. Later she was diagnosed with scleroderma, another chronic illness.
Throughout, Dr. Aletta battled with anxiety. Despite all this, Dr. Aletta wants you to know, you can learn to engage in life again on your terms.
Good therapy helped Dr. Aletta. She knows good therapy can help you. That’s why she created Explore What’s Next.
Today Dr. Aletta enjoys mentoring the EWN therapists, focusing on coaching and psychotherapy clients, writing and speaking. She is proud and confident that Explore What’s Next can provide you with therapists who will help you regain a sense of safety, control and joy.
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