Therapy Questions, Myths, and Misconceptions Pt 2
Updated: Aug 3, 2021
Therapists Don’t Give Answers and Advice, We Help Clients Explore Solutions
This series will handle misunderstandings and common questions we as therapists encounter from our clients and people in general. Therapy can be scary, but the hope of this series is to remove some of the fear, stigma, and confusion that often accompanies the therapy journey.
Often clients, particularly ones who are feeling lost, ask their therapists, “Why can’t you just tell me what to do?” As tempting as that may be for therapists and clients alike to give advice, it is not actually in the best interest of the client. In fact, a therapist giving explicit instructions can do more harm than good. Below are three reasons why therapists exist to guide and question, not command and answer.
1. Therapists Don’t have Enough Information
One session a week for 45 minutes to an hour is not enough time to get the full picture of any situation. Furthermore, the therapist is only hearing one side of the story, colored by all of the biases and perceptions of their client. In order to give the best advice possible, a therapist would have to have as much information as possible. This is impossible, and not the focus of therapy. Furthermore, working from a limited standpoint and then telling a client what to do could actually make a situation worse. This, in turn, could damage the relationship shared between the therapist and client.
2. Therapists Don’t Know What is Best for Individuals
In some ways it’s natural to want to defer to a therapist. After all, they are the professional in the room. And in most other situations we have been conditioned to refer to whoever has the most experience and education (think doctor, lawyer, etc.). But unlike with say, a physical medical issue, mental health and life problems are much more nuanced and subjective. There is rarely a universal solution to a problem. Suggesting otherwise is invalidating to client’s emotions and experiences.
3. Personal Decisions are Powerful
Now that it has been established that therapists are not all-knowing at that each situation is unique, we have reached the real role of therapy. Therapy is meant to be a space for clients to explore themselves. Ideally, therapists exist within that space as an objective third party that can validate and challenge their clients during this process. By prescribing a solution, therapists rob clients of the opportunity to find their own. A decision or realization reached by a client is infinitely more powerful than one supplied by an outside source.
Finding meaning and answers in therapy is hard. It can be daunting to begin. And if you enter therapy thinking your therapist is there to give you answers, the process will be frustrating. But the truth is that even if therapists knew best, lasting change and breakthroughs come through a client’s own work. Using your therapist as a sounding board and collaborator ultimately will be much more useful to the you. And rewarding.
I am a counselor at Houston Therapy. I work with adolescents and adults looking for a warm, non-judgmental space to explore their struggles and experiences. I have worked with a broad range of clients, but I have a strong background with those seeking to understand their anxiety, depression, trauma, and relationship issues. My approach is trauma-informed and LGBTQ friendly.