I don’t tell clients what to do. I can share my insights, I can ask questions and guide the process to support clients in finding solutions. The solutions however, come from them. This may sound vague and disappointing to some. The reality is doing therapy this way makes it more effective. I’m personally a question asker. Being told what to do without context doesn’t go well for me. More so, when it’s someone who doesn’t know me well or my circumstances. Sometimes, and only sometimes, we do what we’re told, likely more when being observed (ex. nightly flossing before a dentist appointment). That being, I don’t strive to be the authority, telling people what to do, without having walked in their shoes and without having to be the one to deal with the consequences of those actions. I want clients to find solutions that come from them and fit in their lives. The idea is, solutions and shifts that come from within, are more likely to carried out, maintained and built on.
So if it’s coming from you, why engage in therapy…
Therapy is the process more than the information. There’s certainly value the therapist brings to the room; knowledge and insights that gets weaved into the process. However, just setting aside time, being open, willing to engage, acknowledging the struggle, making space for it, can be healing and brings forward solutions. When we bury, ignore, avoid, or keep struggling, it can get harder, issues can become bigger, and sometimes seem unmanageable. At that point we may feel distant from any possible solution, any hope of things getting better. Therapy at this stage, may feel trivial compared to the magnitude of the issues.
IF we slow down and are willing to engage, it’s often found we know contributing factors to our struggles, we may even know many solutions. What’s missing in this case is support taking those first few steps, beginning to apply solutions. That’s where I find most of my work as a therapist focused. Helping clients make the changes they want. I can then bring forth my toolbox of knowledge/insights and collaborate to find solutions that fit. Sometimes, however, we know our symptoms but not the source and not solutions. That’s okay too. That’s where therapy can be focused on delving deeper, asking questions, and processing the symptoms. It still remains as a collaborative process with therapist inquiry-client response, therapist hypothesis-client willingness to experiment.
Therapy can be seen as a mix of a science and an art. The science is learnt but the process is an art. I say that because, while rooted in science, even when methods are sound, outcomes are not formulaic. Each therapeutic experience is different. That is not to say therapy is hit or miss. An art form can be refined. An artist can hone their skill. That’s what deliberate practice is about. Though, that’s another topic for another day.
The important note here is a good therapist is only part of the equation for effective therapy, and even then, like life, therapy isn’t linear.