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Is Cursing OK During Therapy?

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The other day when I saw my therapist for treatment of my obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD I described an incident that made me particularly angry and I cursed. Within the next 15 minutes I felt the need to say another curse word, but for some reason stopped myself and asked the therapist if she minded if I swore sometimes. She replied that she had noticed that I had done that at times. She then proceeded to say that she never curses and doesn't go out with people who do. I asked her why she had this stance and she answered that it was due to her religion. But she also pointed out that the therapists are instructed to walk out of a session if the patient does a lot of cursing.

Feeling defensive, I pointed out that I speak in various tones, sometimes using the educated one and other times I prefer to sound earthier. Dr. Romero nodded her head in agreement. After that exchange no earthy language came out of me.
Later on, I reflected on the session and began to wonder if the doctor had a valid point in only wanting to hear cleaned up language. I could understand that it could be very annoying and downright offensive if a patient exclusively used cursing in their expressions. But every once in a while? Was that really so bad? Should a patient feel inhibited because he or she has to watch what they say, I wondered. Is using colorful language every so often really offensive? Frankly, I don't think it is.

Now, if a patient wants to have a good rapport with the therapist in this situation, then I would advise the patient to yes, watch his or her language, as I plan to do. Pretend the therapist is a school teacher, and you have to mind your p's and q's a bit. That's how I feel anyway. One does want to be respectful of the therapist's religion which does not permit cursing, but on the other hand the therapist should be mindful of the patient's need to self-expression, even if it will make the therapist inwardly cringe a little. This is part of her work, and sometimes if not often, work of any nature will include a few unpleasantries.

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I think that figuring out if, when, and how much cursing is appropriate is probably part of developing the therapeutic relationship. However, I feel like the therapist, more than the client, has a responsibility to gauge whether his or her language, and beliefs about how and when cursing should be used, are helpful or unhelpful to the client and to adjust accordingly. I am surprised that your therapist revealed what seems like a strong opinion about cursing and her relationship with people who do, as it doesn't seem like that sort of information would be helpful to you considering the circumstances. I can understand why perhaps if a client were being belligerent while cursing, a therapist might consider leaving the situation, but just getting up and leaving doesn't seem like an effective way to deal with disagreements about what level of cursing is appropriate or in any way helpful to the client.

I agree with expwoman - that cursing can actually be helpful at certain times and to a certain degree. I think that the client should feel free to express his/her beliefs and to not feel that he/she must censor himself/herself extensively. And if the client or therapist does have an issue with the others' language, I think that it should be brought up in a neutral, non-critical manner so that neither party feels like their preference is being judged. Those are just my thoughts on the matter anyway :).

August 11, 2010 - 5:01pm
(reply to Fellow OCD Sufferer)

Dear Fellow Sufferer,
I totally agree with you. Now I will not say another curse word, as if I were in school. Maybe the therapist is trying to exercise some small amount of power, in which case she should analyze that, like the title of the movie with Robert Di Niro.
I am glad you like my blogs.
And hang in there,

August 19, 2010 - 7:49am

I have the reverse situation in a way. My therapist swears quite frequently, always in relation to what my OCD might be saying to me, or what my self-critical voice might be saying. In life outside therapy I very rarely ever curse, but in therapy it has felt more accurate sometimes to curse. My previous therapist also cursed(and she was a Protestant minister!!), and at first I was surprised, but then I started to find it helpful. Essentially telling the OCD "F-- You!" is sometimes necessary for me.

August 11, 2010 - 11:42am
(reply to expwoman)

Dear Expwoman,
Your therapist sounds refreshing. Mine is a little uptight, and sometimes preachy, especially when she says she doesn't go out with people who curse. She may have a whole list of prohibitions, who knows.
Hang in there,

August 19, 2010 - 7:41am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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