Don’t take advice from a therapist

An argument...

A common myth that many have about the therapy process is that you talk to your therapist about your problems and the therapist tells you what to do about them. If you run into a therapist that actually has this type of attitude and expectation of you–and there are definitely some out there–run as far in the opposite direction as you possibly can.  My advice: don’t take advice from a therapist.

There is a joke that asks, “How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb?”  The answer: “One, but the light bulb really has to want to change.”  This is one good summation of the therapeutic process.

As for my own style, I am more interested in asking questions than providing answers. The main reason?  I am not you. I’ve had my own periods of difficulty, and been stuck for years in situations I thought I could never get out of, but I am but one person. I likely have many things in common with my clients, but I am not my clients.

Sometimes I will offer feedback, perhaps beginning a sentence with, “Based on what you’ve told me so far, this is what I see.”  You, as a client can either agree, or explain what parts of my feedback are inaccurate and why.

I once had a hellish experience with a therapist where I gradually began to realize that she was painting in her mind a picture of me that was very inaccurate.  It literally felt like she was drawing on a piece of glass that was sitting between us, and on this piece of glass was a caricature of someone who looked like me, but wasn’t. At first I thought it was kind of funny. But then she used this caricature as a way to make assumptions about me, and I suddenly found myself defending myself against those incorrect assumptions.

So then, who am I to give advice?  I might float “test balloons” with you, throwing out ideas to gauge your response to them.  But I am much more interested in your understanding of what works for you and what tools you already have to work through the issues you face.