What a Therapist can offer you
It’s beyond the scope of this article to cover every aspect of what therapy involves, but I’ll try to give an overview of how it can help. In the most general sense, a counselor is someone you can talk to about your problems. I’ll try to break down what the exact benefits are. Not all of these will necessarily apply to someone going to see a counselor about shyness or social issues, but I’ll cover them anyway:
Some of the core things counseling can provide are:
Advice, strategies, tools, techniques, etc.
Some readers may find it’s odd that I’m putting this point first. Some sources go out of their way to emphasize that counseling is about so much more than some authority telling you what to do. It’s true. Often it’s not appropriate or useful for a therapist to give their client direct advice. However, there are many cases where counseling is helpful because it does provide the client with useful information they wouldn’t otherwise know. A counselor could teach a stressed out student how to calm themselves through breathing and relaxation exercises. They could help a couple improve their relationship by showing them more effective communication strategies. In some cases a therapist’s advice could take the form of a multi-session program. Like they could help an anxious person gradually face their fear of riding in elevators over a period of several months. The ‘program’ could consist of education about anxious thinking, and real-world exposure exercises.
I think this benefit is particularly applicable to social issues since helping someone work through them often involves providing advice (e.g., teaching communication skills or ways of dealing with shyness and inhibitions). Of course there are going to be times where a client with social problems will have other needs.
It doesn’t always seem like it would be that big a deal, but just having someone you can speak to is very helpful in and of itself. One way having someone to listen to you can be useful is that it just feels good to get stuff off your chest. If something is bothering you, simply saying it out loud can take a lot of its power away. /p>
Listening is also healing when it allows a person to feel heard and understood, and able to work through their emotions on their own time. Sometimes that’s all a person needs, not for someone to throw a million strategies and suggestions at them. For example, a man may feel genuinely depressed and bereaved because his pet rabbit of 8 years has died. Not only that, but he feels dismissed and frustrated because his friends and family don’t see what the big deal is. To them “it’s just a rabbit”, and they think he’s overreacting and being melodramatic. He doesn’t need any advice, or insights into his behavior. He just needs someone to listen to him and share his feelings with. He also needs someone will show they know how hard it is for him, and that they get what he’s experiencing, and that they think it’s a perfectly valid reaction to a long-time pet’s death.
Listening in a way to allow you figure things out on your own
Counselors often act as sounding boards. The client has the answers within themselves. They just need someone to listen to them and bounce their thoughts and ideas off of. For example, a young man may seek counseling because he has a tendency to always sabotage himself just as he’s about to become successful at something. If he thinks out loud about his situation enough he’ll be able to arrive at some insights about why he acts the way he does. Without spoon feeding anyone, a therapist can help this process along by asking clarifying questions or by making observations that may cause the client to look at their situation from a new perspective.
Why therapists make good listeners
Aside a quick aside, here are some reasons counselors are well suited for listening:
- It’s their role to be a good listener and give you their undivided attention for the time you’re together. The session is all about helping you. They’re not checking their phone while you talk to them. They’re not going to get bored or uncomfortable and change the topic after three minutes. They’re not going to cut you off and offer you some generic platitudes.
- Therapists are accepting and non-judgmental. Even if you’ve done things you feel are really bad or embarrassing, they have an understanding of why you, and other people, would act the way you did. They don’t hold your actions against you.
- They’re someone you can talk to confidentially. Many people have issues they don’t want to share with their friends or family. Counselors are ethically bound to keep everything their clients say confidential (the only exceptions are when a client makes statements which suggest they’re an imminent danger to themselves or others, or they know of a child that’s at risk of harm). Anything else, no matter how sensitive or shameful it may be to the client, is going to be kept private.
- A therapist is a third-party that’s totally disconnected from the rest of your life. Clients often feel they can’t go to their friends and family about certain issues, because these people have biases or preconceived notions that get in the way of their being supportive and helpful. Like, if someone is having trouble with one of their friends, they may be reluctant to go to their other friends, who know the person as well. If they go to their mom, she may just blurt out something like, “Well it’s probably because you’re so stubborn all the time!”
Knowledge and feedback about yourself
This benefit can come about as a side effect of the three points above, or the counselor may more straightforwardly point something out to you. Self-awareness and self-knowledge can be very powerful. You can’t really correct a lot of problems if you have a huge blind spot about what your motivations are, or how you come across to other people.
If a therapist gives you feedback, it may not necessarily be negative either. Like they may tell you your conversation skills are actually totally fine, and not bumbling and awkward like you feel they are. If they have to tell you something that may be a bit harder to hear, they’ll still do it, but will try to phrase it in the most helpful and sensitive way possible.
A microcosm of your social relationships
Often how a client acts with their therapist gives a fairly accurate reflection of how their social relationships are with other people. The counselor can tune into this information, get a sense of what the client’s issues are, and then be able to help them. For example, someone with a tendency to push people away in order to pre-emptively protect themselves from rejection may pick a petty fight with their counselor. Whenever they do something like this in their day-to-day life it may cost them a relationship. However, a therapist who’s aware of the underlying dynamic will try to make things go differently. Rather than getting mad, they can bring up what’s going on with the client, and hopefully do some productive work on the issue. source: succeedsocially.com