How can talking with a therapist help

How Can Talking With a Therapist Help Me With My Problems?

Many people wonder how talking about their problems can actually help them get better. Talk therapy works in many ways! Individual therapists will have different styles and preferred methods, but they all have important tools to help you. Here are a few of the ways that “talk therapy” works.

1. Clarify the Issues: When you are burdened with many emotions, it can be hard to figure out how all your different problems fit together and create distress. A therapist can listen and help you sort out the issues. Getting clarity reduces a big problem to a few smaller ones.

2. A Safe Place to Tell Your Story: When you have a good listener, such as a professional therapist, you talk more. And as you narrate your life and its problems in a safe environment, you see it in a new perspective, and often just the telling of your story itself can lead you to new insights and resolutions.

3. Non-Judgmental Acceptance: Friends and acquaintances typically want to tell you what you’re doing wrong and give “advice” that doesn’t take into account the whole picture. Therapists listen carefully, make no judgments about your situation, and accept where you are in life. They build a bond of trust and openness, and then you can work out solutions.

4. Find Your Strengths: In the midst of troubles you might overlook your internal resources, knowledge, and experiences. Your therapist will help you identify your strengths and show you how to use them to solve your problems.

5. Accountability: Sometimes a therapist is an accountability partner for you. Some therapists work by prescribing certain behaviors, such as keeping a thought and emotion log or making sure that you spend some time each day in writing gratitudes or in physical activity.

6. Identify Patterns: Most therapists are good at noticing repeated patterns that you might be unaware of, patterns of thought or behavior that get you into problems. For instance, your therapist might observe that you tend to rise to a certain level at your job, but then you doubt yourself and back out. It’s the same process, but in different contexts of life.

7. Connect the Dots: Therapists can help you understand your current behavior, values, and thoughts in light of earlier (usually childhood) experiences. We learn what kind of people we have come to be by connecting the dots from our family of origin to our current situation in life. There’s always a “why” behind what we do, and it’s often discovered in therapy.

8. Identify Internal Process: Some therapists are particularly keen on asking what’s going on inside your head when your have certain problem situations. They will ask you about your internal images, exactly what you’re saying to yourself, and what you feel in your body. Then they help you make changes in these to get the outcomes you want.

9. Identify and Correct Faulty Thinking: All of us make thinking mistakes, but sometimes pervasive over-generalizations, all-or-nothing thinking, seeing only the negatives, exaggerations, and selective biases can get us into substantial emotional turmoil. Therapists listen carefully for these, and help you correct them.

10. Learning About the Psychological Structure of Your Problem: Therapy can be an educational experience; this is especially important with stress and many anxiety issues, where not knowing what in the world is going on with you greatly amplifies the anxiety. When you know what’s going on with your nervous system, memory, stress response, breathing, and other mind and body matters, you will, literally, begin to “breath more easily.”

David P. Levin, M.S., LPC, NBCCH
Staff Therapist for Behavioral Healthcare Consultants