If your therapist is giving you advice, you need a new therapist. Giving advice is not counselling. It’s not therapeutic, and it doesn’t help you, the client. After almost 30 years in counselling, though, this is probably the single most common request from my clients. “Tell me what you would do.” Or, “Just tell me what the right answer is here.”
I usually ask some variation of, “What do you need to hear?” Or, “Why is it important what I would do?” Or, “What do you think is the thing to do?” Only in very rare instances do my clients not know (or don’t at least have a really good idea) what is best for them. What they really want, is to hear the solution from me. There’s lots of reasons for this, but the bottom line is that if I do offer solutions or advice, it’s not therapy.
If a client thinks s/he is actually paying me for advice, or to offer solutions, then anger is often the response. And clients do get angry. Sometimes, “enraged” is a better adjective. One of my clients became so irate that I wouldn’t tell him which option I thought was his best choice, that he stood up, shouted at me that I was “useless,” and then stepped over me on his way out the door. (At 6’7” this was not difficult for him.) I was so stunned I didn’t even think to duck.
As a new therapist, I was pretty shaky, but after debriefing with my clinical supervisor, I knew two things – I am not responsible to solve my client’s problems, and, never sit between a client and the door. I’ve not always remembered not to take responsibility for my client’s problem, but I have always remembered not to get between my clients and the door.
Today is National Psychotherapy Day. Alexandra Stevens, via Elephant Journal, offers some reasons why clients become angry with their therapists. Worth the read.
Love the posts on the Good Therapy blog – definitely worth following. This one is on selfcare and anxiety. Take a moment to read it. Try out some of the suggestions …even if you don’t struggle with anxiety. The habit of selfcare is beneficial for absolutely everyone. Including you. 🙂
“Often, couples enter counseling when marriages are on the brink…” (Dr. Jeremy Frank’s article is here)
This is so true. The average period of time a couple delays before seeking help for a floundering relationship is SIX years. (!!) When I see them in my office, often the catalogue of hurts and acrimony between them is so bitter and so entrenched that there’s little that counseling can do. If the couple is willing to put their divorce plans on hold and seek therapy individually, then often the relationship can be salvaged.
This is less likely, however, if one or more of the “three A’s” are involved – abuse, addiction, or an affair. While not always guaranteed couple-killers, these particular issues are so complex, and so fraught with emotional baggage that recovery is difficult.
Don’t wait! If your relationship isn’t what you hoped it would be, or it is deteriorating in ways that are distressing, get help now. If your partner won’t accompany you, go anyway. And if one of the three A’s is happening, definitely go. Even if your relationship ends, the support and help available through a good therapist is invaluable in recovering your sense of self and equilibrium.
More reading here –
Stephanie St Clair imparts some absolutely stellar, hard earned, wisdom about starting your own business. And she’s hilarious. Business Badassery
Maybe some more good stuff…
There is nothing pretty about unspoken bargains. ~Lisa A. Miles
Unspoken Bargains in Our Daily Relationships | World of Psychology.
When there is conflict in a relationship, whether between intimate partners or work colleagues, I often find tacit bargains at the root of the problem. The conflict happens when one of the people feels disadvantaged, used, or trapped by the consequences of the operation of the bargain. Since the agreement was never acknowledged, it’s not like one can simply renegotiate the terms.
Relationship bargains, like all other bargains, are agreed upon under the table. We don’t agree on these things out in the open because if we did, the secondary gains we could achieve with these bargains would be diminished. ~Andrea Matthews; The Law of Attraction, pg 77
And it is the “secondary gains” that actually maintain bargains. What is gained under the table may be more important than what is lost in the open. What I believe I’m gaining (or avoiding) by choosing to be complicit in the bargain is actually all about me and nothing about the other.
The solution is, as always, personal responsibility. Here in the Middle East people will often say, “It is not in my hands,” meaning they don’t have the power to change or affect something. I often turn it around and ask, “What is in your hands?” Inevitably, there is comprehension of the part that my client plays in maintaining that unspoken bargain. Then the work begins. What is essentially complicit behaviour created by personal way(s) of relating to others through unspoken bargains can, and does, change when one or the other of the two people in the bargain do something different.
Of course, that “something different” then creates temporary tension in the relationship while a new equilibrium is established. Is this process smooth? Sometimes …but not usually. We all become (more-or-less) committed to the status quo and changing that creates dis-ease.
It’s the willingness to compromise, to be mindful of my own ‘hidden agenda’ (secondary gains) and to own the truth of my impact on others that stretches and grows a relationship of any type into something mutually satisfying and beneficial to both parties.
- Nothing Changes Until Something Changes | Refine Us (freshairofgrace.typepad.com)
- Bargains in Relationship (Sue Johnson, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy)
- Tacitly Agreeing (myhalfof.blogspot.com)