NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Why It's Important For Psychotherapists NOT to Have "All the Answers" in Therapy

There was a time in the history of psychotherapy when traditional psychotherapists believed they had  "the answers" for their clients (see my article: A Therapist's Beliefs About Psychotherapy Affect How the Therapist Works With You).

Why It's Important For Psychotherapists Not to Have "All the Answers" in Therapy

Back then, it was assumed a client would come in, free associate to whatever was on his or her mind, and when the time was right, the therapist would make an interpretation as to what was going on for the client.

If the client didn't accept the therapist's interpretation, the client would usually be thought of as being "resistant" (see my article: Understanding the Different Aspects of Yourself That Make You Who You Are).

Fortunately, times have changed and most contemporary therapists work in a more collaborative way with clients.  And yet, there are still many clients who come to therapy who expect the therapist to have "all the answers" to their problems.

Not only is it a distortion of what goes on in therapy to think that a therapist is all-knowing, it's also counterproductive.

And, it's likely that any therapist who presents him or herself as knowing all the answers won't be listening to the client or helping the client to develop his or her own ability to develop insight and inner knowledge.

Self exploration and personal discovery is part of the psychotherapeutic process.  And while it's understandable that some clients want "the answer" to their problems from the therapist, it's not realistic or helpful.

Although psychotherapists, who have advanced training in psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapy, are trained to do in-depth therapy, they are neither mind readers nor fortunate tellers, so they don't have "all the answers" to your problems.

Why It's Important For Psychotherapists Not to Have "All the Answers" in Therapy

Knowledgeable, skilled therapists can facilitate clients' self exploration and help them to develop the psychological skills to overcome problems and lead a healthier life.

If they're trained as trauma therapists, which not all therapists are, they can also help clients to overcome psychological trauma.

But psychotherapists also need to get to know clients over time, and it would be presumptuous and foolhardy for any therapist to assume that she knows from the start what would be best for the client.

If the therapist assumes that she already knows the answers to the client's problems before there is any psychological exploration, this usually means that the therapist isn't taking the time to listen empathically and to get to know the client.

In my professional opinion, as a psychodynamically trained therapist who has gone on to do advanced trauma training, psychotherapy is an intersubjective experience (see my article:The Therapy Session: A Unique Intersubjective Experience).

It takes time for the client and therapist to develop a therapeutic rapport and this doesn't always happen.  Not every therapist is for every client, and most therapists recognize that it's not always a "good fit" with every client.

Most therapists know that each client is unique and, even when it appears that a particular client might have a similar problem to other clients, there's never a one-size-fits-all approach that will work for every client.

Why It's Important For Psychotherapists Not to Have "All the Answers" in Therapy

A skilled therapist also knows that part of creating a therapeutic rapport is creating a "holding environment," as initially explained by British psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott, where the client feels safe (see my article: The Creation of the Holding Environment in Therapy).

A skilled therapist also knows that she must listen empathically to what the client is saying on both a  conscious and unconscious level in order to begin to understand what's happening with the client (see my articles: Psychotherapy: Therapists Should Listen and Learn From Their Clients and The Therapist's Empathic Attunement to the Client)

By listening empathically, the therapist is actually learning from the client about the client rather than the other way around where the therapist makes premature interpretations as to what's going on.

It's also the therapist's job to help the client to develop the skills to tolerate the ambiguity of what's going on in therapy, especially during the initial stage of therapy when it might not be so clear.

In other words, some clients come in with a specific problem and while the resolution might not be clear, the problem is clearer than when clients come in a state of general malaise and they're not sure what's going on (see my article:  When You Just Don't Feel Right, It's Hard to Put Your Feelings Into Words).

For the client, developing skills to tolerate ambiguity might include self soothing techniques or other forms of coping skills (see my article:  Developing Coping Skills in Therapy).

There are no quick fixes in psychotherapy, even with some of the more advanced forms of trauma therapy, which tend to be shorter than some forms of talk therapy when there is psychological trauma (see my article: Beyond the "Band Aid" Approach to Overcoming Psychological Problems).

If you're new to psychotherapy, it helps to have realistic expectations of your therapist and of the psychotherapy process.

Generally speaking, the more complex the problem, the longer it takes to work it through in therapy, although therapy shouldn't be an interminable process where you feel you're not making any progress.

Rather than giving you the answers, a skilled therapist helps you to get to know yourself, grow psychologically, and learn how to work through your problems.

Why It's Important For Psychotherapists Not to Have "All the Answers" in Therapy

I recommend that you take your time when you're choosing a psychotherapist (see my article:How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

As part of the process of finding a therapist, you might want to see several therapists to determine which one you feel the most comfortable with before you delve into therapy.

And, as I mentioned before, even highly respected, reputable therapists are not always a "good fit" for everyone, so trust your intuition when making a choice.

Getting Help in Therapy
Many people avoid seeking help in therapy because they believe in common myths and distortions about therapy (see my articles: Common Myths About Psychotherapy: Going to Therapy Means You're "Weak" and Common Myths About Psychotherapy: Therapy Takes a Very Long Time).

It's takes time to develop a sense of trust and safety in therapy, especially if you've had early childhood experiences where you were abused or neglected.

Getting Help in Therapy

Psychotherapy can be a  transformative and dynamic process if you approach it with a sense of openness and curiosity about yourself, choose a therapist who is right for you, and approach therapy with realistic expectations (see my articles: Psychotherapy and Beginners MindStarting Therapy With a Sense of Curiosity and Openness and Experiential Therapy Can Be a Transformative Experience That Helps to Achieve Emotional Breakthroughs).

About Me:
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, see my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.