This article is an excerpt from a User’s Guide to Effective Therapy and Coaching, coming soon.
Talking about your problems and frustrations with a therapist or counselor can help you. But it can also harm you.
Talking about the things that bother you helps because it helps to know that you are not alone. It also helps to know that others care about you, even when you are struggling. This is why we talk to friends when we feel burdened by life.
When you come into a therapist’s office and talk about your issues, you get a lot of the same benefits as would from talking to a caring friend. In addition, you get a non-judgmental person who will listen to you, no matter how many times you need to talk about the same issue or problem. Non-judgmental patient attention to let you work out your own stuff is nurturing and healing.
The value of therapy goes beyond that. The idea is that as you talk about what is bothering you and hear yourself talk, you might observe or notice things about yourself that you would not notice otherwise. There you gain self-knowledge, which is a powerful thing. What you know, you can change.
Often times a therapist will also introduce new concepts to you or suggest behaviors or attitude changes that might give you better results in resolving your problems.
All of this sounds good, so how could it harm you?
The harm that comes from therapy is two-fold.
How therapy can harm you, I:
First the implicit feeling about therapy is that it is the thing you do when you can’t resolve chronic issues or problems in your life. When you find therapy did not give you the results you wanted, it may seem as if you are permanently stuck with your problems.
Two very negative things stem out of this. Individuals who go into therapy to work on themselves and don’t get significant results will often discard therapy-type work all together as ineffective. They will become unwilling to keep looking for help that works.
They may never consider coaching or other personal-growth work, because they already tried therapy and it didn’t help, so why bother. In disregarding other forms of personal work, such as coaching, or a different, more effective therapist, they miss out on breaking out of their issues and having the life they want.
Therapy has an even more devastating effect on couples. Couples often come into therapy as a last resort, as a way to see if their relationship is still viable and can be saved. More often than not, they breakup in therapy, because of the process of therapy itself, not because their relationship is not viable.
But neither the couple, nor the therapist, know that this is why the couple is breaking up. All three parties assume that the relationship must end and proceed accordingly.
In fact, I often hear therapists say that the couple they are working with should just break up. This may or may not be true about the couple. However, when the therapist who’s supposed to help the them stay together thinks they should break up, the couple has very little chance of saving their relationship!
How therapy can harm you, II:
Tune in for the second part of this article in two weeks. I will be writing about the biggest way therapy can harm you, a process that happens even with a great therapist.
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