People go to counseling for all kinds of reasons. Many imagine they’ll leave with helpful instructions with what to do next. They hope to get specific step by step directions for how to deal with a feeling or a problem. While there are some treatments (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT) that may work this way, generally giving advice in therapy is not a thing that happens.
Therapy can best be seen as a process. It’s space for you—whether you’re an adult or a child—to express feelings that you may be holding in during other times. It’s a place to safely get angry, be annoyed, express frustration—all at your therapist. We spend a lot of time distracting ourselves during the rest of our lives so that these uncomfortable, difficult feelings don’t creep out. Your therapist needs to be able to handle your feelings when directed at him or her. Interpersonal issues and problems are great to bring to therapy.
I write a monthly column for GoodTherapy and February’s article is called:
I talk there about how it’s not always easy for the therapist to hold back! When I was starting out at my job I gave a lot more direction and “helpful” suggestions, but as G.H. Francis points out, as therapists we “don’t always know the full story“. And the expectation is that you’ll leave therapy one day. Giving advice keeps you connected to me, the expert, and doesn’t necessarily help empower you.
Let me know what you think of the article either here on on the comments page for Good Therapy.
If you’ve been considering therapy, but are not exactly sure what it’s all about and if it’s for you or if you’ve been going for a while and are not certain how to get all you can from it feel free to drop me an email or phone call.
Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert. He is a Brooklyn therapist (as well as also seeing clients online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working with men and their families for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.