64 Stress Therapy Questions to Ask Clients in Counseling

Stress is a normative experience in life that can arise with various pressures and demands that we experience, especially those that are interpreted as threatening or dangerous. When we feel stressed, our brain’s natural response is to release a surge of hormones that put us in a “fight-or-flight” mode, designed to protect ourselves. Keep reading to learn 65 stress therapy questions to ask clients in counseling.

Common sources of stress include big or unexpected changes, financial concerns, health concerns or illnesses, childcare, personal relationships, traumatic events, balancing daily duties and responsibilities, uncertainty, world events, and personal expectations of self.

While stress is something that we all experience occasionally, prolonged experiences of stress increase the risk of developing cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms, including:

  • Feeling helpless and hopeless
  • Experiencing depressive symptoms
  • Withdrawing from family, friends, hobbies, and interests
  • Moodiness, irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Memory impairment
  • Low confidence or self-esteem
  • Decline in work performance
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal issues including nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting
  • Low libido
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances

Some clients who are struggling with stress may have a mental health illness, and others may not. Effective treatment approaches can include incorporating behaviors that reduce and manage stress, including eating well, exercising, limiting substance use, improving sleep hygiene, and engaging in regular self-care practices.

You may also help clients learn to set boundaries and identify situations that could be delegated to others, or taken off their plate completely. Clients who have a limited support network may benefit from support groups with others who have experienced similar difficulties.

Keeping an eye on symptoms that could indicate a mental health illness may also be a component of your work with clients who are stressed. Anxiety assessments may be something to consider for those who are experiencing high levels of worry and stress on a recurrent basis. Depending on your client’s presentation, monitoring for suicidality and self-harm risk factors may be an important safety measure. 

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Getting Ready for Your First Therapy Session with a New Client with Too Much Stress

Preparing for your first session with a client can play a pivotal role in the development of your therapeutic relationship. You can begin by familiarizing yourself with any intake or referrals that you have received, particularly information related to their primary concerns, mental health history, and goals for treatment. You may find yourself beginning to think about stress management questions you would like to ask.

Crafting an environment where your clients feel comfortable can have a significant impact on the progression of your session. This can be said about your workspace, as well as your presence in the room. Being in tune with your feelings at the moment allows you to pick up on any biases or thoughts that you are having that may not be helpful in your work.

You can take a moment to develop goals for yourself for your session that can act as a guide for you. This can include introducing yourself, building rapport, gathering information, and working together to identify treatment goals.

If you find that the use of worksheets is beneficial during your therapy sessions, this could be an opportunity to collect options that may be relevant to your client’s presenting concerns. TherapyByPro provides mental health professionals with a wide range of exceptional worksheets tailored to various mental health concerns and treatment modalities, including Stress Management Worksheets.

This is a great opportunity to discuss the importance of our self-care practices. As mental health professionals, we have the privilege of witnessing and supporting our clients as they experience hardships and triumphs in life. Regular self-care practices can allow you to focus on your mental health and well-being, which can decrease your risk of emotional exhaustion, reduced empathy, sleep disturbances, and physical aches and pains.

Stress Therapy Questions to Ask Clients in Therapy Sessions

Thoughtful and curious stress questions can help uncover your client’s source, or sources, of stress and explore their current repertoire of coping skills. The information you gather can be used to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your client’s unique needs. Here are some examples of stress therapy questions you can use with clients who are experiencing significant stress:

  1. Where would you like to start?
  2. Can you tell me about what brought you in today?
  3. What do you think would be the best thing to focus our attention on?
  4. Can you tell me about what’s been going on for you lately?
  5. Can you pinpoint your source, or sources, of stress?
  6. What do you feel is your biggest source of stress or worry at the moment?
  7. Can you recall when you began to worry about this?
  8. Are there any recurring patterns or themes within the stressors you experience?
  9. Do you feel that this concern has remained the same, or has it worsened over time?
  10. When you notice your mind shifting to this worry, what do you do?
  11. Have you found anything that helps you cope with the stress you’re experiencing?
  12. Can you tell me a bit about how your stress is impacting your everyday life?
  13. How would you describe your mood as of late?
  14. Can you tell me about your ability to concentrate and hold your focus?
  15. Have you noticed any changes in your appetite?
  16. Have you experienced any unintended weight gain or loss?
  17. Can you tell me about your sleeping patterns?
  18. Can you tell me about your energy levels? Do you get tired at any point during the day?
  19. Do you feel rested when you wake up in the morning?
  20. Can you tell me about your exercise habits?
  21. Can you tell me about any goals you have regarding your stress management? Please be specific.
  22. If you woke up tomorrow without the weight of your stress and worry, how would your life look different?
  23. What changes will you notice in your life when you are making progress towards these goals?
  24. Can you think of any strengths that you can pull from to cope with your stress?
  25. Has there been a time in your life when you had a similar experience with stress or worry? If so, what strengths supported you during that time?
  26. Can you tell me about the important people in your life?
  27. Who do you turn to when you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed?
  28. What do you do for fun?
  29. Do you have any hobbies or interests that you devote time to?
  30. How often can you engage in self-care?
  31. Can you tell me about your self-care routine?
  32. Have you found any physical movements that help your body feel better when you are stressed? This could include exercising, stretching, and meditating.
  33. Do you tend to hold tension anywhere within your body?
  34. Have you noticed any changes within your body when you are stressed?
  35. In those moments when you are experiencing a high level of stress, what are your thoughts like?
  36. How do negative thoughts impact your feelings and behaviors?
  37. Can you tell me about your experience with negative self-talk?
  38. When you are feeling stressed, what are your thoughts like?
  39. I would like you to think about a time when you coped well with stress. What emotions were you experiencing, and how did you manage them?
  40. Can you think of any emotions that you find challenging to cope with and manage when you are feeling stressed?
  41. Can you tell me about your mental health history?
  42. Is this your first experience in counseling?
  43. If not, can you tell me about the care that you received?
  44. Was there anything that stood out as being helpful or unhelpful from your previous treatment experiences?
  45. Can you describe your substance use?
  46. Do you ever feel as though you use drugs or alcohol to cope with your stress?
  47. Has there been a time when you felt as though you were unable to control, limit, or stop using substances?
  48. How would you describe your mental health?
  49. Can you tell me some of your strengths?
  50. What is something that you’re proud of?
  51. Would you like to build on or improve your support network?
  52. Can you tell me about your work-life balance?
  53. Do you feel as though your imbalance is a contributing factor to your stress?
  54. Are there any realistic changes that you could make to your routine to be more balanced?
  55. Can you tell me about how comfortable you are setting and maintaining boundaries? This can include boundaries at work, school, and within your relationships.
  56. Have you spent time exploring the benefits of mindfulness? If so, can you tell me about your experience?
  57. Would you describe yourself as being in the moment, or do you feel as though you are lost in your thoughts frequently?
  58. How do you feel about your time management skills?
  59. Are there any changes you would like to work towards regarding your time management skills?
  60. Can you share with me the values that mean the most to you?
  61. Do you feel as though you are disconnected from your values in any area of your life?
  62. How does making plans or thinking about the future affect your stress levels?
  63. Is there anything about the future that you are particularly concerned about?
  64. Can you tell me about your recent experiences with self-reflection?

Final Thoughts on Stress Therapy Questions to Ask Clients

Thank you for reading this resource on stress therapy questions to ask clients in a session. Working with clients who are stressed can be a collaborative journey as you work together in their healing experience. Our ability to create a safe and empathetic space can provide clients with a sense of validation, support, and empathy that they may not be receiving elsewhere in their lives. By understanding the root of your client’s stress, you can encourage the development of healthy coping skills that empower them to navigate the challenges they experience with new knowledge and support.

Stress is a normative life experience that our clients will experience. Individuals who seek professional support may be experiencing high levels of stress, or have limited coping skills to cope with normative stressors. If you would like to learn about evidence-based treatments and interventions that can be used with clients who are struggling with stress, we encourage you to seek out continuing education and training opportunities within your respective field.

TherapyPatron.com helps mental health professionals better serve their clients. Our (editable, fillable, printable PDF) therapy worksheets can help you streamline your practice, effectively deliver different types of therapy, and support your clients be the best version of themselves.

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Kayla VanGuilder, MA, LCMHC
Author: Kayla VanGuilder, MA, LCMHC

Kayla is a Mental Health Counselor who earned her degree from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. She has provided psychotherapy in a residential treatment program and an outpatient addiction treatment facility in New York as well as an inpatient addiction rehab in Ontario, Canada. She has experience working with individuals living with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and trauma.

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