More and more frequently in the work that I do, I find that people have a misconception about what a therapist does. To be honest, when I first started working in this field, it was most likely for the wrong reasons. I am a fixer by nature. I like to problem-solve, to create solutions. This is what I believed a therapist did – they fixed things.
This is one of the biggest misconceptions in the field!
Therapists are not fixers, advice givers, or problem solvers. So, if you are coming to counseling to be told what to do and how to do it, you might want to rethink your goals for coming in.
Therapists are not problem solvers because we believe that solving someone else’s problems doesn’t actually fix anything. It is quite likely that if a therapist solved one of your problems more problems would arise that you would not feel equipped to handle. I can’t give you advice because my advice would be based on my own unique experiences, not on yours. I do not walk in your shoes every day nor have I been part of your history, so I cannot tell you what you need. Only you can define what you need.
What I can do is listen, reflect back on what I am hearing from you and then offer the expertise of the field that I am trained in. In counseling, we are not working to solve problems, we are working to increase awareness. I want you to leave my office feeling that you understand yourself a bit better, that you have tools you know how to use, and that you are confident in your decision-making. This does not happen in one session. To be honest, most people feel a bit worse after their first session. It’s not easy to share so much about yourself with someone you don’t know. But if you hang in there with your therapist, you will begin to learn more about yourself and what you need. This is the goal of getting counseling, to understand what you need.
A therapist’s office should be a place where you feel safe to be who you are, to share all that has gone on and continues to take place. You should be met with grace and understanding as you enter and share your story.
As a therapist, I have to recognize that I am not always the right fit for every client who walks in the door, and that’s ok. What you want in a therapist is someone who will be honest with you, not someone who will just tell you what you want to hear. Someone you feel comfortable enough with to be completely transparent, even when you have royally screwed up. Someone who is willing to hear your unique story with an open mind and the ability to understand/hear your perspective.
Counseling is not fixing, advice giving or problem solving. Counseling is the building of a safe relationship with a therapist who will seek to develop your self-awareness and who will provide you with tools that you can continue to use as you create your own story.