As some people consider seeking a psychotherapist or counselor (often used interchangeably), they may question how “just talking” to a professional might be helpful. Many of my clients have told me that they believed talking with someone who was not closely connected to their personal situation, and who could remain non-biased, was what led them to make the call. Others are drawn to the therapy because of the confidentiality of that space. But what makes “just talking” helpful? If you’re considering therapy, though are unsure it would be any more helpful than venting to a friend, consider the following:
- A therapist is trained to listen. What is it about listening that would require a person be trained? Therapists are educated to manage their own biases in order to focus on the client’s needs. In fact, it is highly recommended that even seasoned therapists seek consultation from peers in the field so they can ensure they are listening and considering the client’s needs with complete objectivity.
- Therapists aren’t “just listening”. While a safe space to vent may feel great to the client, the therapist is doing more than just listening until the client has emptied themselves from distressing thoughts and emotions. A therapist can listen for any long-standing patterns of thinking that may be getting in the way of you living the life you want to live.
- Therapists aren’t afraid to lose your friendship. That’s because your relationship with a therapist isn’t a friendship. It is professional. The boundaries set in place for you by this professional connection protect you and allow the therapist to be honest with you about what they observe. Because of the safety in this well-structured relationship, the therapist can help you confront difficult aspects of your life and self in ways that foster healing and growth. Since it isn’t a friendship, there is no assumption that you are responsible for how your therapist feels. Having an entire hour in your life where the only person you are responsible for is you can be a powerful way to change.
- Therapists know the thought-feeling connection. Many therapists, especially those who practice cognitive therapies, understand how to help you change unwanted feelings by challenging certain thought patterns that may be keeping you stuck in an unwanted emotional place.
- Therapists understand how the mind and body work together. Some therapists are well-versed in somatic-based treatment. This means they can empower you by teaching you to better manage some aspects of your nervous system. By doing so, you can experience positive results in managing anxiety, the effects of traumatic events on your life, and a depressed mood. Although some of our body’s neurological and physiological responses may also require treatment by a medical doctor who can prescribe medications, having the support of a well-trained therapist can enhance your psychological healing.
Therapists typically aren’t finished with their training after graduate school. Throughout their careers, they are required to continue that education annually and some even begin to carve out specialty skill sets. This professional development doesn’t preclude them from sincerely caring about your well-being. Many therapists enter the field because they believe they are called to care for others while using specific gifts in helping people transform their lives. In fact, many therapists are well-trained in not only the science of psychotherapy, but also the art of it. So while you are doing all this talking in their office, it can feel as comfortable and authentic as if you were just sitting down with that trusted friend. The exception is that you have the undivided attention a trained professional who is focused on only you.
If you suspect working with a therapist or counselor might be a good fit for you, I recommend you research those in your area. You have every right to make sure the one you choose is skilled in the area of your need and is trained to give you the best possible care. The healing agent of talking might be what you need.