Why Therapists Don’t Give Advice
This is a great question - and a part of therapy that I know can sometimes be frustrating for clients. As a client, we go to therapy looking to find solutions and answers. A sometimes tricky part of the therapeutic process, however, is managing our expectations and coming to an understanding that our therapist doesn’t have all the answers nor is it their job to give us the answers. There are many reasons for this, and I’m going to explain a few of them in this post.
1. The first reason that therapists dont give advice is because we don’t necessarily have the solutions to your issues. Everyone is different, and what might work for one client could be totally useless to the next. Sure, we can give you a list of coping tools and strategies but Google can also do that. Our training is to understand mental health, mental illness and human behavior and to pair those things with empathy in order to assist our clients in reaching their goals. This means that therapist and client meet each other half-way to solve problems together. After all, without you I have virtually no insight into your issues and goals or any potential solutions.
2. Many therapists, including myself, believe that you are more than capable of finding your own solutions. You are the expert of your own experience. In therapy, you are given the space and support to explore what your answers might be. When you come into weekly sessions, I am seeing you for one hour of the 168 hours in a week. You have a lifetime of experience and that experience is the most useful and important tool in therapy and in healing. The reason that we don’t always come to the conclusions on our own is because we aren’t always in the right environment. Therapy provides that necessary environment for true exploration paired with a relationship that is safe, unbiased and truly supportive. This can enable you to grow and change as needed.
3. Therapy is so much more beneficial and profound when we come to our own conclusions. Here’s an example: My hypothetical client, Jane, has been struggling with her self-esteem since she was a young child, and has trouble maintaining romantic relationships because of it. Her mind is often filled with negative self-talk and she puts others before her self almost all of the time. Sure, I can tell her, “Jane you’ve just got to think positive, and love yourself.” This is possibly the least helpful thing I could say to her, and also could seriously harm the therapeutic relationship. If, instead, I facilitate an open dialogue with Jane, and offer a therapeutic space for her to work to understand some of her issues she might develop self-worth in a natural way. Yes, this will take time, but it will be long lasting and a strong base for future growth.
4. Giving advice can actually hinder your growth. Yes, really. The goal of therapy is to help you get to a place where you no longer need therapy. As a therapist, I want my clients to gain autonomy, gain trust in themselves, and become self-sufficient. Therapy offers a unique relationship for you to grow in a way in which you are strengthening your own resources. If I give you all of the answers, they probably won’t fit your life perfectly and might result in you relying on me. This is the opposite of our goal. I want to empower you to make your own decisions so that when life gets tough and you’re no longer in therapy you can remain stable and confident.
I know it can sometimes feel frustrating to not have the answers right away but I’ve seen the amazing progress and growth in clients who put in the therapeutic work to meet their goals (and then some)! What’s that phrase? Trust the process? As difficult as it can seem, I’m asking you to really trust the process here - I think it will be worth it.