Not long ago, I was saying that by the end of the year I will respond to the most frequent three questions I hear in my therapy office. About the first one—Why am I the one who has to change?—I wrote quite recently.
Today we move on to the next one. Talking about one’s feelings – and how can it help?
I meet a lot of people saying: I do not need to talk to a therapist. I can as well confess to a friend, s/he can give me good advice, and, moreover, I do not have to pay him/her for listening to me. What’s more, it’s easier for me to talk to a person I know. Is this correct? Yes and no.
It’s true that any close person can be a valuable resource in the therapeutic process. You meet your therapist one hour per week, whilst a close friend will accompany you for a longer period of time. I always encourage my clients1 to discuss with their close ones some of the things we talk about in my office, if they consider it useful. In this way, they can benefit of an enlarged support in their effort of change.
However, this is not enough. What is the benefit to discuss with a therapist? What is the purpose of a weekly 50 minutes meeting to ask for a paid qualified support? What’s the use of talking?
Below are five of the benefits:
- Talking orders one’s mind. Thinking is like a playful child, always restless, always inconsistent. Similar to writing, talking forces the thought to become more disciplined, to get shape, to be firmly contoured. And, more importantly, to have a logic that lets all imperfections and all wounds be seen, as without this lucid look no healing is ever possible.
- Talking gets information from all the hide & seek places. I have witnessed many times small revelations such as: “Wait, it’s only now that, by saying this to you, I realize that actually…” and “It’s strange, I have never thought about this before!” Talking has the merit of making us more aware about our thoughts.
- The therapist is trained to identify dysfunctional thinking and reaction patterns. The therapist is not any kind of listener. Unlike a close friend, the therapist has ‘secret little boxes’, obtained throughout the long training years, in which life stories, frustrations, and failures lay carefully and exhibit their ties: weak, vulnerable, solid, dishonest, authentic…
- The therapist does not provide advice. S/he is a ‘benevolent mirror’ reflecting back, in a more distilled way, what she has captured from the client. Friends, colleagues or relatives give advices; they are sometimes experts on how we should be living our lives. Therapists refrain themselves from doing this. Who am I to take the arrogance to tell you how you should be living your life? The psychotherapist is like a trainer for an athlete: he can give him the water and the towel and will encourage him constantly, but he will never perform in his place. Some clients feel disappointed about it: what, I come here and you do not tell me what to do? What kind of a therapist are you? I am a therapist that trusts you to find the solution in yourself, with my help. I am a therapist that respects you enough as not to dictate how you should live your life.
- The therapist is bound by oath (similar to the Hippocrates’ oath for medical services) to keep full confidentiality on the things disclosed in her office. She provides full confidentiality for the souls that open up in her palm, hoping to heal themselves.