Can therapy give you the answers?

In a way, the answer is both yes and no.

People generally come to therapy distressed and looking for answers. Even if they are aware that a therapist cannot provide them with an easy solution, part of them may still hope to be given the answers. It is perfectly natural to feel this way when you have had enough of struggling, but unfortunately, counselling cannot do this for you. What it can do is help you find your way forward.

To understand this more, here are some reasons why it is not beneficial for your therapist to give you answers.

Why being given the answers might not be helpful

Even good advice can be a handicap

What counselling offers is a relationship in which you can work through your issues, coming to a better understanding of yourself and making good decisions for yourself based on this. It is often a challenging journey, but it leads to greater personal empowerment. Even if a counsellor could offer you good advice on what to do, this would not allow you to develop your ways of managing outside the therapy room or to trust in yourself. It would leave little to no space for personal growth. Another risk with receiving 'good advice' is that it may only address part of what is troubling a client. Given the space to express themselves freely, it is not unusual for clients to realise that they have things adding to their troubles which they were not aware of previously.

Advice may simply add to external pressures

When we take our problems to friends, family, and colleagues, we often receive opinions on what we should do. We also take in messages and expectations from society as a whole. This can lead us to experience various uncomfortable emotions and being confused about how to act. If a therapist gives advice then they would likely be adding to this, providing an answer based on their emotional responses, their values, and their view of the world. Although the answer might be right for the therapist, it does not necessarily make it right for you. We are all the experts on our own lives and counselling is supposed to help you explore your own needs and values so you can do what is best for you. This requires the therapist to be non-judgemental and empathic, accompanying you as you explore your difficulties and reflecting their understanding of the world through your eyes.

The relationship is key to successful therapy

Although clients may want answers to their problems, they usually report that being given the space to be heard without judgement so they can safely explore their feelings is what benefitted them the most. In other words, clients learn new ways of relating to themselves, to others, and the world through the experience of being in a warm and understanding therapeutic relationship, not through any advice received.

All this does not mean that your therapist should never share their opinions or make suggestions. It means that when they do, then it should be to facilitate the exploration of your issues or assist you in developing ways to act on your own.

As such, therapy cannot simply give you the answers, but it can help you find them.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Frey Case-Leng | MBACP | Counsellor

Frey is a professional counsellor and psychotherapist working in private practice and a low-cost service in the Brighton area. He is experienced in counselling people with a wide range of difficulties including anxiety, depression and relationship issues.… Read more

Written by Frey Case-Leng | MBACP | Counsellor

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